PS 78-47 - CANCELLED - Plant functional traits: Role of plant functional traits in distribution of West African trees

Friday, August 12, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Surya K. Maharjan1, Lourens Poorter2, Milena Holmgren3, Frans Bongers1, Jan J. Wieringa4 and William D. Hawthorne5, (1)Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands, (2)Centre for Ecosystems Research, Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands, (3)Resource Ecology Group, University of Wageningen, Wageningen, Netherlands, (4)National Herbarium of The Netherlands, Wageningen University Branch, Wageningen, Netherlands, (5)Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Plant functional traits play an important role in shaping species distribution patterns relative to environmental-gradients. Despite fast growing knowledge on role of functional traits in structuring plant communities, surprisingly few studies have tested their importance at large scales in wet-tropics. This study describes distribution patterns of West African timber species along regional rainfall-gradient and relates them to their functional traits.

This study focused on a steep rainfall-gradient across West Africa. The distribution patterns of 31 selected timber species along regional rainfall-gradient were derived using species response curves based on their abundance values. These distribution patterns were then related to 25 functional traits. For this categorical principal component analysis, Pearson’s correlation analysis and categorical regression analysis were used.


The study results revealed clear and strong relationship between plant functional traits and species distribution patterns along rainfall-gradient. The trait associations showed that shade-tolerance and drought-avoidance are the key strategies for the success of timber species in West Africa. Wood density and deciduousness emerged as the best predictors of species distribution along the rainfall gradient. The study with these results is expected to enhance our knowledge and understanding of associations between plant functional traits and species distribution patterns along rainfall-gradient. Further, it is also expected to provide inputs to understand species response to changing rainfall conditions; predict probable species distribution patterns; and ultimately, to formulate species conservation policies under changing rainfall conditions.

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