Temporal shifts in the functional composition of Andean forests at different elevations are driven by climate change

Johanna Andrea Martínez-Villa, Sandra M. Durán, Brian J. Enquist, Alvaro Duque, Christian Messier, Alain Paquette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: Andean forests are a global biodiversity hotspot. They harbour many species living within narrow climate ranges and a high functional diversity of trees. It remains still unclear how such hotspots respond to climatic changes over time. We investigated whether Andean forests are changing their functional composition over time along an elevational gradient by assessing changes in species composition, abundance and functional traits. Location: An elevational gradient in Colombia's northern Andes. Time Period: Species composition changes were studied two to four times from 2006 to 2017, and functional composition from 2016 to 2017. Major Taxa Studied: A total of 1104 tropical tree species with in situ traits characterization. Methods: We used seven morphological leaf traits and wood density values to analyse the functional trait dynamic over 10 years along an elevational gradient. By analysing changes in species composition, abundance and trait representation, we inferred the magnitude and direction of changes in functional composition. Then, we assessed if the functional change was related to climate change and demography. Results: With increased minimum temperature and vapour-pressure deficit, we found a decrease over time in mean values for leaf area and specific leaf area and increases in leaf thickness and leaf dry matter content. Long-term temperature increases are smaller with increasing elevation, but the magnitude of trait changes is greater than in lowlands. Main Conclusions: The functional composition is changing towards more conservative strategies over time across the elevation gradient, with the strongest changes observed at the highest elevations. This pattern is explained by the change in species turnover within communities due to higher recruitment rates of species with high leaf dry matter content values and low leaf area values. These shifts may be related to communities' responses to higher evapotranspiration demand and thermal stress, mainly at higher elevations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-99
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Andean forests
  • climate change
  • elevational gradient
  • forest plots
  • functional turnover
  • trait distributions
  • trait driver theory
  • trait-based ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Temporal shifts in the functional composition of Andean forests at different elevations are driven by climate change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this