Background: Trees and arborescent palms adopt different rooting strategies and responses to physical limitations imposed by soil structure, depth and anoxia. However, the implications of these differences for understanding variation in the relative abundance of these groups have not been explored. Aims: We analysed the relationship between soil physical constraints and tree and palm basal area to understand how the physical properties of soil are directly or indirectly related to the structure and physiognomy of lowland Amazonian forests. Methods: We analysed inventory data from 74 forest plots across Amazonia, from the RAINFOR and PPBio networks for which basal area, stand turnover rates and soil data were available.We related patterns of basal area to environmental variables in ordinary least squares and quantile regression models. Results: Soil physical properties predicted the upper limit for basal area of both trees and palms. This relationship was direct for palms but mediated by forest turnover rates for trees. Soil physical constraints alone explained up to 24% of palm basal area and, together with rainfall, up to 18% of tree basal area. Tree basal area was greatest in forests with lower turnover rates on well-structured soils, while palm basal area was high in weakly structured soils. Conclusions: Our results show that palms and trees are associated with different soil physical conditions. We suggest that adaptations of these life-forms drive their responses to soil structure, and thus shape the overall forest physiognomy of Amazonian forest vegetation
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.