Tropical forests represent key terrestrial ecosystems for carbon stocks and biodiversity. The dynamics of carbon storage in forests are primarily driven by tree performance in terms of mortality and growth. But climate change is rapidly altering tree performance, with important consequences for carbon cycle, climate regulation and biodiversity. Yet, we are still lacking accurate predictions of the response of tropical forest in terms of their composition, dynamics and functions to altered climate. While demographic approaches have traditionally focused on how individual performance vary with ontogeny or size, trait-based approaches have often focused on how morphological or physiological properties of individuals (traits) change with abiotic and biotic factors and links to performance. Though the link between traits and performance influences population dynamics and subsequent community structure and ecosystem functions, we still understand very little about the drivers shaping the trait-performance relationship. With tropical forests facing rapidly changing abiotic and biotic conditions with global changes, we need a better mechanistic understanding of tropical tree growth and mortality response to the interplay of traits with abiotic and biotic factors. The proposed project will yield a major contribution to this goal by using state-of-the-art, powerful modelling approaches with unprecedented demographic data spanning over 40 years and leaf and wood economics and hydraulics traits of over 700 tropical tree species distributed in 74 forest plots along broad soil and climatic gradients on four continents. Our results will bring a mechanistic understanding of how the interplay of species traits, tree size, climate, soil, and biotic interactions impact tree growth and mortality rates in tropical forests, while disentangling region-specific from pantropical effects.
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