Importance of topography for tree species habitat distributions in a terra firme forest in the Colombian Amazon

Daniel Zuleta, Sabrina E. Russo, Andrés Barona, Juan S. Barreto-Silva, Dairon Cardenas, Nicolas Castaño, Stuart J. Davies, Matteo Detto, Sonia Sua, Benjamin L. Turner, Alvaro Duque

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Aims: To test the relative importance of topography versus soil chemistry in defining tree species-habitat associations in a terra firme Amazonian forest. Method: We evaluated habitat associations for 612 woody species using alternative habitat maps generated from topography and soil chemistry in the 25-ha Amacayacu Forest Dynamics Plot, Colombian Amazon. We assessed the ability of each habitat map to explain the community-level patterns of species-habitat associations using two methods of habitat randomization and different sample size thresholds (i.e., species’ abundance). Results: The greatest proportion of species-habitat associations arose from topographically-defined habitats (55% to 63%) compared to soil chemistry-defined (19% to 40%) or topography plus soil chemistry-defined habitats (18% to 42%). Results were robust to the method of habitat randomization and to sample size threshold. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that certain environmental factors may be more influential than others in defining forest-level patterns of community assembly and that comparison of the ability of different environmental variables to explain habitat associations is a crucial step in testing hypotheses about the mechanisms underlying assembly. Our results point to topography-driven hydrological variation as a key factor structuring tree species distributions in what are commonly considered homogeneous Amazonian terra firme forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-149
Number of pages17
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


  • Amacayacu forest dynamics plot
  • Forest global earth observatory (ForestGEO)
  • Habitat filtering
  • Hydrological niches
  • Iterative amplitude adjusted Fourier transform
  • Northwestern Amazon
  • Torus translation test


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