Determinants of above-ground carbon stocks and productivity in secondary forests along a 3000-m elevation gradient in the Ecuadorian Andes

Esteban Pinto, Francisco Cuesta, Antonella Bernardi, Mellisa Llerena-Zambrano, Álvaro J. Pérez, Masha T. van der Sande, William D. Gosling, Kevin S. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Secondary montane forests, covering 30% of forested lands in the Andes, play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of carbon release. However, the mechanisms responsible for carbon sequestration in the above-ground biomass of these forests are not well quantified. Aims: Understanding the determinants of above-ground carbon (AGC) dynamics in secondary forests along a 3000-m elevational gradient in the Andes to assess their mitigation potential. Methods: We assessed how abiotic and biotic conditions and past human disturbances were related to forest structure and composition, AGC stocks and productivity within sixteen 0.36-ha plots established in secondary forest stands of 30–35 years of age. Results: Structural equation models revealed that changes in temperature conditions along the elevation gradient shaped leaf functional composition, which in turn controlled AGC dynamics. Productivity and temperature decreased with increasing elevation and decreased tree community leaf area. Disturbance legacy (Tree mortality) increased with competitive thinning and low soil fertility. Conclusions: We show that temperature drives AGC dynamics by changing the functional trait composition. This highlights the importance of preserving these forests along elevation gradients and implies potentially strong future changes due to global warming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-146
Number of pages20
JournalPlant Ecology and Diversity
Volume16
Issue number3-4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Climate mitigation
  • ecosystem resilience
  • forest carbon sink
  • montane forest
  • restoration
  • temperature

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