Elevation, Topography and Edge Effects Drive Functional Composition of Woody Plant Species in Tropical Montane Forests

Amira Apaza-Quevedo (Corresponding Author), Denis Lippok, Isabell Hensen, Matthias Schleuning, Sabine Both

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Tropical montane forests comprise heterogeneous environments along natural gradients of topography and elevation. Human-induced edge effects further increase the environmental heterogeneity in these forests. The simultaneous effects of natural and human-induced gradients on the functional diversity of plant leaf traits are poorly understood. In a tropical montane forest in Bolivia, we studied environmental gradients associated with elevation (from 1900 m to 2500 m asl), topography (ridge and gorge), and edge effects (forest edge vs. forest interior), and their relationship with leaf traits and resource-use strategies. First, we investigated associations of environmental conditions (soil properties and microclimate) with six leaf traits, measured on 119 woody plant species. Second, we evaluated changes in functional composition with community-weighted means and functional structure with multidimensional functional diversity indices (FRic, FEve and FDiv). We found significant associations between leaf traits and soil properties in accordance with the trade-off between acquisition and conservation of resources. Functional composition of leaf traits shifted from the dominance of acquisitive species in habitats at low altitudes, gorges, and forest interior to the dominance of conservative species in habitats at high altitudes, ridges, and forest edges. Functional structure was only weakly associated with the environmental gradients. Natural and human-induced environmental gradients, especially soil properties, are important for driving leaf traits and resource-use strategies of woody plants. Nevertheless, weak associations between functional structure and environmental gradients suggest a high redundancy of functional leaf traits in this tropical montane forest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-458
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 23/02/2015
We thank Ricardo Sonco and Marcelo Reguerin for field assis-
tance, Arely Palabral and Heike Heklau for laboratory assistance
and the Herbario Nacional de Bolivia for the technical suppor t.
We thank the community ‘Chulumani’ for their collaboration to
our research. This research was funded by the German Academic
Exchange Service (DAAD) and by the DFG project ‘Regenera-
tion of tropical mountain forest species at burned sites in the
Eastern Cordillera of Bolivia’ (HE3041/20-1). M.S. received the
research funding program Landes-Offensive zur Entwicklung
Wissenschaftlich-€okonomischer Exzellenz (LOEWE) of Hesse’s
Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and the Arts.
Additional Supporting Information may be found with online
FIGURE S1. Schematic representation of the study design.
FIGURE S2. Rarefaction curves for 22 vegetation plots sam-
pled in a montane forest of Bolivia.
FIGURE S3. Representativeness of 119 species sampled for
the evaluation of six leaf traits in a montane forest of Bolivia.
FIGURE S4. Principal component analysis evaluating collinear-
ity of environmental variables.
FIGURE S5. Soil and microclimate variables along elevation,
topography, and edge effects in a montane forest of Bolivia.


  • acquisitive-conservative trade-off
  • Bolivia
  • fourth-corner analysis
  • fragmentation
  • functional diversity
  • functional structure
  • leaf traits


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