Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sunlight in tropical forest driving force behind ecological niches of tree species

Date:
November 28, 2011
Source:
Wageningen University and Research Centre
Summary:
Not water, but sunlight is the main factor in determining the growth of the hundreds of tree species in tropical forests. The variation in physiological characteristics between tree species explains how the various species fit into their ecological niches, thereby contributing to diversity in tropical forests.

Not water, but sunlight is the main factor in determining the growth of the hundreds of tree species in tropical forests. The variation in physiological characteristics between tree species explains how the various species fit into their ecological niches, thereby contributing to diversity in tropical forests. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers from Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, and their colleagues from Utrecht University in a publication in the scientific journal PNAS.

Related Articles


Tropical forests are able to sustain hundreds of tree species on just a few hectares, but little is known about how this diversity has evolved. A study carried out by Frank Sterck, Lourens Poorter and Lars Markesteijn (Wageningen University) and Feike Schieving (Utrecht University) shows that the species examined all responded differently to variations in the availability of light and water because they had different physiological characteristics. Most of the species occupied a unique niche where they do better than the other species, which may contribute to the co-existence of these species and the diversity of the forest.

As part of the study, the researchers measured a range of physiological properties such as leaf surface area, wood density, photosynthesis capacity, leaf water potentials and resistance to water transport in tropical tree species from a Bolivian forest. They used a physiological plant model to calculate the speed at which the various species can grow when exposed to different combinations of water and light. The simulations show that variations in leaf production and photosynthesis capacity enable species to specialise for a variety of light niches. The sensitivity of stoma to drought in the various species (and therefore the water consumption) also varies, but this does not lead to trees becoming specialised for dry or moist locations in the same forest.

The researchers conclude that even in relatively dry tropical forests, light is the driving force behind niche specialisation in tree types. This makes sunlight more important than water in terms of whether different trees grow side-by-side or not. This is one of the first studies for which physiological plant models have been used to scale up plant characteristics to the growth and survival of various tree species in order to explain the wealth of species in a tropical forest. In future, these models will also be used to look into the distribution of plant species along climate gradients.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wageningen University and Research Centre. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Frank Stercka, Lars Markesteijna, Feike Schievingc, and Lourens Poorter. Functional traits determine trade-offs and niches in a tropical forest community. PNAS, 22 November 2011

Cite This Page:

Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Sunlight in tropical forest driving force behind ecological niches of tree species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111128115147.htm>.
Wageningen University and Research Centre. (2011, November 28). Sunlight in tropical forest driving force behind ecological niches of tree species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111128115147.htm
Wageningen University and Research Centre. "Sunlight in tropical forest driving force behind ecological niches of tree species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111128115147.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins