Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Seasonal drought limits tree species across the Neotropics

Esquivel Muelbert, Adriane; Baker, Timothy; Dexter, Kyle; Lewis, Simon; ter Steege, Hans; Lopez-Gonzales, Gabriela; Monteagudo Mendoza, Abel; Brienen, Roel J.W.; Feldpausch, Ted R.; Pitman, Nigel; Alonso, Alfonso; van der Heijden, Geertje M.F.; Pena-Claros, Marielos; Ahuite, Manuel; Alexiaides, Miguel; Alvarez-Davilla, Esteban; Araujo Murakami, Alejandro; Arroyo, Luzmilla; Aulestia, Milton; Balslev, Hendrik; Barroso, Jocely; Boot, Rene; Cano, Angela; Chama, Victor; Comiskey, Jim; Dallmeier, Francisco; Daly, Doug; Davlia, Nallaret; Duivenvoorden, Joost; Duque Montoja, Alvaro; Erwin, Terry; Di Fiore, Anthony; Frederickson, Todd; Fuentes, Alfredo; Garcia-Villacorta, Roosevelt; Gonzalez, Therany; Guevara, Juan; Honorio, Euridice; Huamantupa-Chuquimaco, Imau; Killeen, Timothy; Malhi, Yadvinder; Mendoza, Casimiro; Mogollon, Hugo; M?ller J?rgensen, Peter; Montero, Juan; Mostacedo, Banifacio; Nauray, William; Neill, David; Nunez Vargas, Percy; Palacios, Sonia; Palacios, Walter; Pallqui Camacho...


Adriane Esquivel Muelbert

Timothy Baker

Kyle Dexter

Simon Lewis

Hans ter Steege

Gabriela Lopez-Gonzales

Abel Monteagudo Mendoza

Roel J.W. Brienen

Ted R. Feldpausch

Nigel Pitman

Alfonso Alonso

Geertje M.F. van der Heijden

Marielos Pena-Claros

Manuel Ahuite

Miguel Alexiaides

Esteban Alvarez-Davilla

Alejandro Araujo Murakami

Luzmilla Arroyo

Milton Aulestia

Hendrik Balslev

Jocely Barroso

Rene Boot

Angela Cano

Victor Chama

Jim Comiskey

Francisco Dallmeier

Doug Daly

Nallaret Davlia

Joost Duivenvoorden

Alvaro Duque Montoja

Terry Erwin

Anthony Di Fiore

Todd Frederickson

Alfredo Fuentes

Roosevelt Garcia-Villacorta

Therany Gonzalez

Juan Guevara

Euridice Honorio

Imau Huamantupa-Chuquimaco

Timothy Killeen

Yadvinder Malhi

Casimiro Mendoza

Hugo Mogollon


Juan Montero

Banifacio Mostacedo

William Nauray

David Neill

Percy Nunez Vargas

Sonia Palacios

Walter Palacios

Nadir Pallqui Camacho

Julie Peacock

Juan Phillips

Georgia Pickavance

Carlos Quesada

Hirma Ramirez-Angula

Zorayda Restrepo

Carlos Rodriguez

Marcos Paredes

Rodrigo Sierra

Marcos Silveira

Pablo Stevenson

Juliana Stropp

John Terborgh

Milton Tirado

Marisol Toledo

Armando Torres-Lezama

Natalia Umana

Ligia Urrego

Rodolfo Vasquez

Luis Valenzuela

Cesar Vela

Emilio Vilanova

Vincent Vos

Patricio von Hildebrand

Corinne Vriesendorp

Ophelia Wang

Kenneth Young

Eugene Zartman

Oliver Phillips

F. Cornejo


Within the tropics, the species richness of tree communities is strongly and positively associated with precipitation. Previous research has suggested that this macroecological pattern is driven by the negative effect of water-stress on the physiological processes of most tree species. This process implies that the range limits of taxa are defined by their ability to occur under dry conditions, and thus in terms of species distributions it predicts a nested pattern of taxa distribution from wet to dry areas. However, this ‘dry-tolerance’ hypothesis has yet to be adequately tested at large spatial and taxonomic scales. Here, using a dataset of 531 inventory plots of closed canopy forest distributed across the Western Neotropics we investigated how precipitation, evaluated both as mean annual precipitation and as the maximum climatological water deficit, influences the distribution of tropical tree species, genera and families. We find that the distributions of tree taxa are indeed nested along precipitation gradients in the western Neotropics. Taxa tolerant to seasonal drought are disproportionally widespread across the precipitation gradient, with most reaching even the wettest climates sampled; however, most taxa analysed are restricted to wet areas. Our results suggest that the ‘dry tolerance’ hypothesis has broad applicability in the world's most species-rich forests. In addition, the large number of species restricted to wetter conditions strongly indicates that an increased frequency of drought could severely threaten biodiversity in this region. Overall, this study establishes a baseline for exploring how tropical forest tree composition may change in response to current and future environmental changes in this region.


Esquivel Muelbert, A., Baker, T., Dexter, K., Lewis, S., ter Steege, H., Lopez-Gonzales, G., …Cornejo, F. (2017). Seasonal drought limits tree species across the Neotropics. Ecography, 40(5),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 1, 2015
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2016
Publication Date May 1, 2017
Deposit Date May 25, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 25, 2016
Journal Ecography
Print ISSN 0906-7590
Electronic ISSN 1600-0587
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 5
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Adriane Esquivel Muelbert [et al.], Seasonal drought limits tree species across the Neotropics, Ecography, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.


You might also like

Downloadable Citations