U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

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 of scientists from the NGEE-Tropics project present a 30-year tropical forest dataset that suggests leaf and fruit production is coordinated with ENSO cycles, with greater leaf fall observed prior to El Niño followed by greater seed production.

The Impact
The response of tropical forests to ENSO events and, in general, to drought and other environmental stress, are 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 to understand 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 season, suggesting adaptive strategies to optimize reproduction and resource acquisition in response to environmental stress.

Contacts (BER PM)
Daniel Stover

Dorothy Koch

(PI Contact)
Matteo Detto
Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Princeton University and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

The Environmental Sciences Program of the Smithsonian Institution funded data collection. M.D. was partially supported by the US Department of Energy Office of Science NGEE-Tropics. Raul Rios, Brian Harvey, and Steven Paton collected the BCI climate data.  

Detto, M., S.J. Wright, O. Calderón, O. and H.C. Muller-Landau. “Resource acquisition and reproductive strategies of tropical forest in response to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.” Nature Communications 9, No. 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-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


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