Linking canopy leaf area and light environments with tree size distributions to explain Amazon forest demography

Scott C. Stark, Brian J. Enquist, Scott R. Saleska, Veronika Leitold, Juliana Schietti, Marcos Longo, Luciana F. Alves, Plinio B. Camargo, Raimundo C. Oliveira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Forest biophysical structure - the arrangement and frequency of leaves and stems - emerges from growth, mortality and space filling dynamics, and may also influence those dynamics by structuring light environments. To investigate this interaction, we developed models that could use LiDAR remote sensing to link leaf area profiles with tree size distributions, comparing models which did not (metabolic scaling theory) and did allow light to influence this link. We found that a light environment-to-structure link was necessary to accurately simulate tree size distributions and canopy structure in two contrasting Amazon forests. Partitioning leaf area profiles into size-class components, we found that demographic rates were related to variation in light absorption, with mortality increasing relative to growth in higher light, consistent with a light environment feedback to size distributions. Combining LiDAR with models linking forest structure and demography offers a high-throughput approach to advance theory and investigate climate-relevant tropical forest change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-645
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Amazon forest
  • Canopy plasticity
  • Canopy structure
  • Forest dynamics
  • Leaf area profiles
  • LiDAR
  • Light competition
  • Metabolic scaling theory
  • Remote sensing
  • Tree demography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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