Size-Class Effect Contributes to Tree Species Assembly through Influencing Dispersal in Tropical Forests
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We have investigated the processes of community assembly using size classes of trees. Specifically our work examined (1) whether point process models incorporating an effect of size-class produce more realistic summary outcomes than do models without this effect; (2) which of three selected models incorporating, respectively environmental effects, dispersal and the joint-effect of both of these, is most useful in explaining species-area relationships (SARs) and point dispersion patterns. For this evaluation we used tree species data from the 50-ha forest dynamics plot in Barro Colorado Island, Panama and the comparable 20 ha plot at Bubeng, Southwest China. Our results demonstrated that incorporating an size-class effect dramatically improved the SAR estimation at both the plots when the dispersal only model was used. The joint effect model produced similar improvement but only for the 50-ha plot in Panama. The point patterns results were not improved by incorporation of size-class effects using any of the three models. Our results indicate that dispersal is likely to be a key process determining both SARs and point patterns. The environment-only model and joint-effects model were effective at the species level and the community level, respectively. We conclude that it is critical to use multiple summary characteristics when modelling spatial patterns at the species and community levels if a comprehensive understanding of the ecological processes that shape species' distributions is sought; without this results may have inherent biases. By influencing dispersal, the effect of size-class contributes to species assembly and enhances our understanding of species coexistence.
© 2014 Hu et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Ecology not elsewhere classified