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  • Title: Functional Diversity of Tropical Trees
  • Principal Investigators: Christopher Baraloto
  • Timeline: Ongoing

One of our major objectives is to describe functional strategies of tropical trees and their relationships with species performance and distributions. We want to better understand the processes contributing to community structure and ecosystem function. For this, we sampled leaves and wood from over 5000 trees and measured functional traits related to resource acquisition, growth and defense.

This project represents the largest databases for DNA, functional traits and plant chemical defenses of any tropical forest region. The integration of these data has permitted rigorous tests of community assembly.

In collaboration with international teams, we are describing whole plant level variation in functional traits, including root and stem tissue densities, anatomy and chemistry. Using samples collected from permanent plots we have installed in lowland forests of Peru and French Guiana, we are seeking to test for coordinated allocation strategies among tissue types and the consistency of this relationship across habitats differing in resource availability and herbivore pressure. Further, in collaboration with teams from Berkley, we are expanding our investigations of plant chemical defenses beyond the presence-absence data of volatile molecules to a total metabolite approach for several widespread Amazonian tree lineages (Bombacoideae, Protieae, Swartzia, Inga, Micropholis, Eschweilera).