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Title: Tropical forests structure and diversity: a comparison of methodological choices
Keywords: Forest inventory
Inclusion criterion
Tropical dry forests
Tropical wet forest
Inventário florestal
Critério de inclusão
Florestas tropicais secas
Florestas úmidas tropicais
Issue Date: Oct-2021
Publisher: British Ecological Society
Citation: SOUZA, C. R. de et al. Tropical forests structure and diversity: a comparison of methodological choices. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, [S. l.], v. 12, n. 10, p. 2017-2027, Oct. 2021. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.13670.
Abstract: Large-scale data compilation is increasing steadily in tropical forest research, but the lack of standardized methods for data collection limits drawing inference from large datasets and cross-biome analyses. Different inclusion methods and minimum tree diameter threshold are among these varying factors. To tackle this issue, we evaluated how different approaches for tree sampling affects our understanding of diversity and functioning in different tropical vegetation types. We used a unique dataset of 44 inventory plots (43.54 ha) encompassing an aridity gradient: evergreen moist forests, semideciduous and deciduous tropical forests. Data were collected using the by-tree inclusion method, in which, all stems are measured if the equivalent diameter of the tree reaches the minimum threshold. We simulated the impact of adopting different inclusion methods (by-stem and by-tree) and different minimum diameter thresholds on the estimation of number of trees and stems, biomass and species richness. We used linear and nonlinear mixed models to investigate the effect of minimum diameter threshold and inclusion method on our different response variables. We also evaluated species chance to be sampled under different minimum inclusion criteria. Inclusion method and minimum diameter threshold mainly affect the estimation of number of trees and stems and species richness, especially in deciduous and semideciduous forests, where resprouting is a prevalent strategy. In these forests, many trees that have several stems do not reach the minimum size individually when adopting the by-stem method, yet they do reach the minimum size threshold when all stems are considered together. For these environments under water stress, our analysis showed that using large minimum sizes, such as the 10 cm typically used in rainforests, implies large sampling losses, especially when used jointly with the by-stem inclusion method. The by-tree inclusion method represents an alternative approach that offers a more reliable sampling in different vegetation types, particularly in those habitats where resprouting is a widely encountered strategy along all age classes. We demonstrate the infeasibility of adopting broad and standard minimum thresholds for different tropical vegetation types, particularly considering their widely different ecological strategies.
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