Global environmental changes may be altering the ecology of tropical forests. Long-term monitoring plots have provided much of the evidence for large-scale, directional changes in tropical forests, but the results have been controversial. Here we review evidence from six complementary approaches to understanding possible changes: plant physiology experiments, long-term monitoring plots, ecosystem flux techniques, atmospheric measurements, Earth observations, and global-scale vegetation models. Evidence from four of these approaches suggests that large-scale, directional changes are occurring in the ecology of tropical forests, with the other two approaches providing inconclusive results. Collectively, the evidence indicates that both gross and net primary productivity has likely increased over recent decades, as have tree growth, recruitment, and mortality rates, and forest biomass. These results suggest a profound reorganization of tropical forest ecosystems. We evaluate the most likely drivers of the suite of changes, and suggest increasing resource availability, potentially from rising atmospheric CO concentrations, is the most likely cause.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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