Sources of Canopy Chemical and Spectral Diversity in Lowland Bornean Forest

  • Asner G
  • Martin R
  • Suhaili A
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Sources of variation among the chemical and spectral properties of
tropical forest canopies are poorly understood, yet chemical traits
reveal potential ecosystem and phylogenetic controls, and spectral
linkages to chemical traits are needed for remote sensing of functional
and biological diversity. We analyzed 21 leaf traits in 395 fully sunlit
canopies, representing 232 species and multiple growth forms, in a
lowland mixed dipterocarp forest of Sarawak, Malaysia. Leaf traits
related to light capture and growth (for example, photosynthetic
pigments, nutrients) were up to 55% lower, and defense traits (for
example, phenols, lignin) were 15-40% higher, in the dominant family
Dipterocarpaceae and in its genus Shorea, as compared to all other
canopy species. The chemical variation within Dipterocarpaceae and
Shorea was equivalent to that of all other canopy species combined,
highlighting the role that a single phylogenetic branch can play in
creating canopy chemical diversity. Seventeen of 21 traits had more than
50% of their variation explained by taxonomic grouping, and at least 16
traits show a connection to remotely sensed spectroscopic signatures
(RMSE < 15%). It is through these chemical-to-spectral linkages that
studies of functional and biological diversity interactions become
possible at larger spatial scales, thereby improving our understanding
of the role of species in tropical forest ecosystem dynamics.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Malaysia
  • Sarawak
  • canopy chemistry
  • leaf chemistry
  • mixed dipterocarp forest
  • remote sensing
  • spectranomics

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