Elevation and latitude drives structure and tree species composition in Andean forests: Results from a large-scale plot network

Agustina Malizia, Cecilia Blundo, Julieta Carilla, Oriana Osinaga Acosta, Francisco Cuesta, Alvaro Duque, Nikolay Aguirre, Zhofre Aguirre, Michele Ataroff, Selene Baez, Marco Calderón-Loor, Leslie Cayola, Luis Cayuela, Sergio Ceballos, Hugo Cedillo, William Farfán Ríos, Kenneth J. Feeley, Alfredo Fernando Fuentes, Luis E. Gámez Álvarez, Ricardo GrauJuergen Homeier, Oswaldo Jadan, Luis Daniel Llambi, María Isabel Loza Rivera, Manuel J. Macía, Yadvinder Malhi, Lucio Malizia, Manuel Peralvo, Esteban Pinto, Sebastián Tello, Miles Silman, Kenneth R. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Our knowledge about the structure and function of Andean forests at regional scales remains limited. Current initiatives to study forests over continental or global scales still have important geographical gaps, particularly in regions such as the tropical and subtropical Andes. In this study, we assessed patterns of structure and tree species diversity along ~ 4000 km of latitude and ~ 4000 m of elevation range in Andean forests. We used the Andean Forest Network (Red de Bosques Andinos, https://redbosques.condesan.org/) database which, at present, includes 491 forest plots (totaling 156.3 ha, ranging from 0.01 to 6 ha) representing a total of 86,964 identified tree stems ≥ 10 cm diameter at breast height belonging to 2341 identified species, 584 genera and 133 botanical families. Tree stem density and basal area increases with elevation while species richness decreases. Stem density and species richness both decrease with latitude. Subtropical forests have distinct tree species composition compared to those in the tropical region. In addition, floristic similarity of subtropical plots is between 13 to 16% while similarity between tropical forest plots is between 3% to 9%. Overall, plots ~ 0.5-ha or larger may be preferred for describing patterns at regional scales in order to avoid plot size effects. We highlight the need to promote collaboration and capacity building among researchers in the Andean region (i.e., South-South cooperation) in order to generate and synthesize information at regional scale.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0231553
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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