EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The role of inter- and intra-specific variability in controlling trait measurements in tropical forests

Lucy Rowland1, Paulo Bittencourt1, David Bartholomew1, Andre Giles2, Rafael Oliveira2, Maurizio Mencuccini3, Antonio da Costa4, Lindsay Banin5, David Burslem6, and Patrick Meir7,8
Lucy Rowland et al.
  • 1University of Exeter, Geography, Laver building, Exeter, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (
  • 2Instituto de Biologia, University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, SP 13083-970, Brasil
  • 3CREAF, Campus UAB, Cerdanyola del Vallés, 08193 Spain
  • 4Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, Belém, PA 66040-170, Brasil
  • 5UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Penicuik, Midlothian, EH13 0QP, UK
  • 6School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, UK
  • 7Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601 Australia
  • 8School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3FF, UK

Tropical rainforests harbour the greatest diversity of woody plant species in the world. Consequently, within any individual forest plot, replicating functional trait measurements, particularly at species level can be challenging. However, trait variation within and between species can be very large. Limited sampling opportunities in diverse forests poses a huge challenge to understanding the role both inter- and intra-specific variation play when we scale up individual trait measurements to plot or landscape averages. Using data from tropical forests within Latin America and South East Asia, we explore the potential role which inter- and intra-specific variation may play when attempting to compare functional trait values in tropical forests experiencing different environmental conditions. We demonstrate the need for renewed care considering how we construct sampling protocols within these forests for functional trait sampling. This includes considering the size and canopy position of the trees we sample across plots, alongside the number of individual within a species, and the number of species, we sample to generate results concerning how variation in environmental conditions influences plant functional traits. Considering such issues also offers considerable opportunities to advance our knowledge of the processes of acclimation and trait plasticity and how they may influences responses to environmental change. In-turn opening new prospects to better inform vegetation models, particularly individual-based models and therefore to investigate the impact of these properties at larger scales.

How to cite: Rowland, L., Bittencourt, P., Bartholomew, D., Giles, A., Oliveira, R., Mencuccini, M., da Costa, A., Banin, L., Burslem, D., and Meir, P.: The role of inter- and intra-specific variability in controlling trait measurements in tropical forests, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5126,, 2021.

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