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Resource Acquisition and Reproductive Strategies of Tropical Forest in Response to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation
Published: March 02, 2018
Posted: June 26, 2018

Coordination between leaf and fruit phenology driven by a warm phase of ENSO.

The Science   
It has been suggested that tree phenology may be regulated by climatic oscillations. Here, a team a scientists from the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)–Tropics project present a 30-year tropical forest dataset that suggests leaf and fruit production is coordinated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycles, with greater leaf fall observed prior to El Niño, followed by greater seed production.

The Impact
The response of tropical forest to ENSO events and in general to drought and other environmental stresses is still under exploration. Here, they show a relatively strong response of tropical phenology (fruiting and leafing) to a warming phase of ENSO. This discovery can help in understanding the mechanisms of response or adaptation of plants to climate variability and pave the road to their implementation into Earth Ecosystem Models.

For the first time an interaction between phenophases of tropical plants (leafing and fruiting) is shown to be driven by large-scale periodic climate variations. This interaction mirrors the dynamics between dry and wet seasons, suggesting adaptive strategies to optimize reproduction and resource acquisition in response to environmental stress.

BER Program Managers
Daniel Stover
Terrestrial Ecosystem Science, SC-23.1 (301-903-0289)

Dorothy Koch
SC-23.1 (301-903-0105)

Principal Investigator
Matteo Detto
Associate Researcher, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Princeton University and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

The Environmental Sciences Program of the Smithsonian Institution funded the data collection. M.D. was partially supported by the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)–Tropics project. Raul Rios, Brian Harvey, and Steven Paton collected the BCI climate data.

Detto, M., Wright, S.J., Calderón, O., & Muller-Landau, H.C. "Resource acquisition and reproductive strategies of tropical forest in response to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation." Nature Communications 9, 913 (2018). [DOI:10.1038/s41467-018-03306-9].

Related Links

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling
  • Research Area: Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments (NGEE)

Division: SC-33.1 Earth and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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