Ecophysiological traits of plant functional groups in forest and pasture ecosystems from eastern Amazonia, Brazil
The plant functional group approach has the potential to clarify ecological patterns and is of particular importance in simplifying the application of ecological models in high biodiversity ecosystems. Six functional groups (pasture grass, pasture sapling, top-canopy tree, top-canopy liana, mid canopy tree, and under- story tree) were established a priori based on ecosystem inhabited, life form, and position within the forest canopy profile on eastern Amazonian region. Ecophysiological traits re- lated to photosynthetic gas exchange were then used to characterize such groups. The ecophys- iological traits evaluated showed considerable variations among groups. The pasture grass functional group (a C4 photosynthetic pathway species) showed high instantaneous water use efficiency (Amax/gs@Amax), high photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (Amax/Narea), and high ratio of Amax to dark respiration (Amax/Rd). Among the species with the C3 photosynthetic pathway, the top-canopy liana group showed the highest mean of Amax/gs@Amax, statistically dis- tinct from the lowest average presented by the understory tree group. Furthermore, the pasture sapling group showed the lowest average of Amax/Rd, statistically distinct from the high average observed for the understory tree group. Welch-ANOVAs followed by Gamesâ€šÃ„Ã¬Howell post hoc tests applied to ecophysiological traits produced reasonable distinctions among func- tional groups, although no significant distinction was detected between the groups top-canopy tree and pasture sapling. Species distribution within the functional groups was accurately reproduced by discriminant analyses based on species averages of ecophysiological traits. The present work convincingly shows that the func- tional groups identified have distinct ecophysi- ological characteristics, with the potential to respond differently to environmental factors. Such information is of great importance in modeling efforts that evaluate the effects of dynamic changes in tropical plant communities over ecosystem primary productivity.