Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology

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Functional Diversity is considered an important driver of community assembly in environmental and successional gradients. To understand tree assembly processes in a semideciduous tropical forest, we analyzed the variation of Functional Richness (FRic), Functional Divergence (FDiv), and Functional Evenness (FEve) of small vs. large trees in relation to fallow age after slash-and-burn agriculture and topographical position (flat sites vs. hills). FRic of small trees was lower than null model predicted values across the successional gradient, and decreased unexpectedly in older successional ages. FRic of large trees was higher than null model predictions early in succession and lower in late-successional stands on hills. Dominant species were more similar (low FDiv) in early and intermediate successional stands for small trees, and on hills for large trees, suggesting that species that are best adapted to harsh conditions share similar traits. We also found evidence of competitive exclusion among similar species (high FEve) for small trees in early successional stands. Overall, our results indicate that community assembly of small trees is strongly affected by the changing biotic and abiotic conditions along the successional and topographical gradient. For large trees, hills may represent the most stressful conditions in this landscape.

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© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (