Department of Biology

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Henrik Balslev

Stability in a changing world -: palm community dynamics in the hyperdiverse western Amazon over 17 years

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Are the hyperdiverse local forests of the western Amazon undergoing changes linked to global and local drivers such as climate change, or successional dynamics? We analyzed local climatic records to assess potential climatic changes in Yasuní National Park, Ecuador, and compared two censuses (1995, 2012) of a palm community to assess changes in community structure and composition. Over 17 years, the structure and composition of this palm community remained remarkably stable. Soil humidity was significantly lower and canopy conditions were significantly more open in 2012 compared to 1995, but local climatic records showed that no significant changes in precipitation, temperature or river-level have occurred during the last decade. Thus, we found no evidence of recent directional shifts in climate or the palm community in Yasuní. The absence of changes in local climate and plant community dynamics in Yasuní contrast with recent findings from eastern Amazon, where environmental change is driving significant changes in ecosystem dynamics. Our findings suggest that until now, local forests in the northwest Amazon may have escaped pressure from climate change. The stability of this rich palm community embedded in the hyperdiverse Yasuní National Park underlines its uniqueness as a sanctuary for the protection of Amazonian diversity from global change impacts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Pages (from-to)1232-1239
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • Arecaceae, biodiversity, climatic records, community ecology, climate change, directional changes, forest dynamics, forest monitoring, global change, Yasuní National Park

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