Patterns of plant functional variation and specialization along secondary succession and topography in a tropical dry forest
Environmental Research Letters
Long-term human disturbance of tropical forests may favor generalist plant species leading to biotic homogenization. We aimed to a) assess if generalist species dominate across different successional ages and topographical positions in a tropical dry forest with a long history of human disturbance, b) to characterize functional traits associated with generalist and specialist species, and c) to assess if a predominance of generalists leads to a homogeneous functional structure across the
... e across the landscape. We used a multinomial model of relative abundances to classify 118 woody species according to their successional/topographic habitat. Three species were classified as secondary-forest specialists, five as mature-forest specialists, 35 as generalists, and 75 as too rare to classify. According to topography, six species were hill specialists, eight flat-site specialists, 35 generalists, and 70 too rare. Generalists dominated across the landscape. Analysis of 14 functional traits from 65 dominant species indicated that generalists varied from acquisitive strategies of light and water early in succession to conservative strategies in older forests and on hills. Long-term human disturbance may have favored generalist species, but this did not result in functional homogenization. Further analyses considering other functional traits, and temporal and fine-scale microenvironmental variation are needed to better understand community assembly.