Legume abundance along successional and rainfall gradients in Neotropical forests

Maga Gei, Danaë M.A. Rozendaal, Lourens Poorter, Frans Bongers, Janet I. Sprent, Mira D. Garner, T.M. Aide, José Luis Andrade, Patricia Balvanera, Justin M. Becknell, Pedro H.S. Brancalion, George A.L. Cabral, Ricardo Gomes César, Robin L. Chazdon, Rebecca J. Cole, Gabriel Dalla Colletta, Ben De Jong, Julie S. Denslow, Daisy H. Dent, Saara J. DewaltJuan Manuel Dupuy, Sandra M. Durán, Mário Marcos Do Espírito Santo, G.W. Fernandes, Yule Roberta Ferreira Nunes, Bryan Finegan, Vanessa Granda Moser, Jefferson S. Hall, José Luis Hernández-Stefanoni, André B. Junqueira, Deborah Kennard, Edwin Lebrija-Trejos, Susan G. Letcher, Madelon Lohbeck, Erika Marín-Spiotta, Miguel Martínez-Ramos, Jorge A. Meave, Duncan N.L. Menge, Francisco Mora, Rodrigo Muñoz, Robert Muscarella, Susana Ochoa-Gaona, Edith Orihuela-Belmonte, Rebecca Ostertag, Marielos Peña-Claros, Eduardo A. Pérez-García, Daniel Piotto, Peter B. Reich, Casandra Reyes-García, Jorge Rodríguez-Velázquez, I.E. Romero-Pérez, Lucía Sanaphre-Villanueva, Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, Naomi B. Schwartz, Arlete Silva De Almeida, Jarcilene S. Almeida-Cortez, Whendee Silver, Vanessa De Souza Moreno, Benjamin W. Sullivan, Nathan G. Swenson, Maria Uriarte, Michiel Van Breugel, Hans Van Der Wal, Maria Das Dores Magalhães Veloso, Hans F.M. Vester, Ima Célia Guimarães Vieira, Jess K. Zimmerman, Jennifer S. Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The nutrient demands of regrowing tropical forests are partly satisfied by nitrogen-fixing legume trees, but our understanding of the abundance of those species is biased towards wet tropical regions. Here we show how the abundance of Leguminosae is affected by both recovery from disturbance and large-scale rainfall gradients through a synthesis of forest inventory plots from a network of 42 Neotropical forest chronosequences. During the first three decades of natural forest regeneration, legume basal area is twice as high in dry compared with wet secondary forests. The tremendous ecological success of legumes in recently disturbed, water-limited forests is likely to be related to both their reduced leaflet size and ability to fix N2, which together enhance legume drought tolerance and water-use efficiency. Earth system models should incorporate these large-scale successional and climatic patterns of legume dominance to provide more accurate estimates of the maximum potential for natural nitrogen fixation across tropical forests.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1104-1111
JournalNature Ecology & Evolution
Issue number7
Early online date28 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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