The variation of productivity and its allocation along a tropical elevation gradient: a whole carbon budget perspective

Yadvinder Malhi, Cecile Girardin, Gregory R. Goldsmith, Christopher E. Doughty, Norma Salinas Revilla, Daniel B. Metcalfe, W. Huaraca Huasco, J. E. Silva-Espejo, Jhon del Aguilla-Pasquell, F Farfán-Amézquita, Luiz E. O. C. Aragao, Maria Guerrieri, F. Yoko Ishida, Nur H. A. Bahar, William Farfan-rios, Oliver L. Phillips, Patrick Meir, Miles R. Silman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why do forest productivity and biomass decline with elevation? To address this question, research to date has generally focused on correlative approaches describing changes in growth and biomass against elevation-related variables such as temperature.

We present a novel, mechanistic approach to this question by quantifying each component of the autotrophic carbon budget in 16 forest plots along a 3300m elevation transect in the Peruvian Andes, where growing season length does not vary with elevation.

Low growth rates at high elevations appear primarily driven by low gross primary productivity (GPP), with little shift in either carbon use efficiency (CUE) or allocation of net primary productivity (NPP) between wood, fine roots and canopy. Rather than a gradual linear decline in GPP or NPP, there is some evidence of a sharp transition between submontane and montane forests. Cloud immersion may be important through either decreased illumination or leaf wetting. Leaf-level photosynthetic parameters do not decline with elevation, implying that neither temperature nor nutrient limitation restrict photosynthesis at high elevations.

When cloud immersion regimes are accounted for, the lack of relationship between productivity and annual temperature suggest that plant acclimation and community turnover result in little long-term sensitivity of tropical forest productivity to temperature.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Phytologist
Early online date21 Oct 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Oct 2016


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