J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2008, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (5): 547-558.DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7909.2008.00663.x

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Spatiotemporal Patterns and Dynamics of Species Richness and Abundance of Woody Plant Functional Groups in a Tropical Forest Landscape of Hainan Island, South China

Zhi-Dong Zhang, Run-Guo Zang and Yao-Dong Qi   

Abstract: Tropical forests are among the most species-diverse ecosystems on Earth. Their structures and ecological functions are complex to understand. Functional group is defined as a group of species that play similar roles in an ecosystem. The functional group approach has been regarded as an effective way of linking the compositions of complex ecosystems with their ecological functions. To understand the variation of functional groups in species-rich ecosystems after disturbance, the present study investigated the spatial pattern and temporal dynamics of woody plants in a typically fragmented natural forest landscape of Hainan Island in South China. The study area was classified into eight landscape types based on vegetation type, disturbance manner and the time of recovery. The woody plant species were aggregated into seven functional groups based on the growth form, successional status and plant size. The results gained from the present study showed that all functional groups, except for the emergent and canopy tree species, were present in all eight landscape types. Each landscape type had different numbers of dominant functional groups. There are similar species richness and stem abundance structure among functional groups between mid-successional clear cut lowland rainforest and old growth tropical coniferous forest. This similarity exists in selective logged lowland rainforest and old-growth lowland rainforest, as well as among landscape types of montane rainforest. The functional groups with the same successional status had similar patterns of species richness and stem abundance ratios among different landscape types. The variation patterns of functional groups along the successional stages in terms of species richness and stem abundance among the tropical lowland rainforest landscape types were more similar to each other than those in the tropical montane rainforest landscape types. This study provides further support for the competition-colonization tradeoff and successional niche theory as opposed to models of neutrality and ecological equivalence.

Key words: forest landscape types, functional groups, Hainan Island, recovery dynamics, spatial variation, species diversity, stem abundance

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