Theme BioFor - Biodiversity Dynamics of Tropical Rain Forests


The tropical rain forest (TRF) is considered to be the richest and most complex ecosystem in the world, and provides a habitat for more than 50% of current living species on ca. 7% of the earth's land surface. Its particular features and accelerated regression under the effect of global climate and man-made social and economic changes have made biodiversity conservation, sustainable resource management, regulation of biogeochemical cycles and carbon sequestration in TRF priority concerns. There is a pressing need to improve our current understanding of TRF ecological dynamics and notably to identify and quantify the natural processes that enable a high level of diversity to be maintained in these ecosystems. Such knowledge is deemed necessary to predict evolution of TRF under various global change scenarios.

Scientific objective

The main goal of our project is to understand the regional structure and dynamics of TRF tree diversity. Three main types of processes are generally acknowledged to contribute to maintaining this diversity: local interactions, environmental filtering and dispersal capacity. We use modeling tools to infer the relative importance of these processes from observations in order to provide to managers with the knowledge they need to justify their actions in terms of biodiversity management and conservation.


Our project deals with areas ranging from large forest patches (~104 to 105 ha) to entire ecological regions (~100 000 km2), and time scales of a few (up to a few dozens) tree generations (longer evolutionary time scales are only considered when they can help disentangle evolutionary and ecological processes). The project is conducted in several tropical regions in India (mountains of the Western Ghats), Central Africa (Congo basin), North Amazonia (French Guiana-Amapa) and New Caledonia, with perspectives of regional syntheses and intercontinental comparisons. In each region, we try to integrate the spatial and temporal scales, by i) combining analyses of different data sets in a given biogeographic context (permanent sites, networks of forest plots, herbarium occurrences); ii) integrating taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional levels of analysis to disentangle the processes; iii) using modeling tools to explore the dynamic links between these scales and different levels of organization.

Expected results

  •  Cognitive and theoretical advances in the understanding of TRF biodiversity dynamics;
  •  Methodological developments to study the processes in TRF in sp ace and over time;
  •  Contributions to knowledge capitalization on TRF within the framework of regional forest observatories (DynAfFor and AfriTRON in Central Africa, RAINFOR, Guyafor, Amazon Tree Diversity Network, etc.);
  •  Practical recommendations for forest type mapping and biodiversity conservation.

Scientific projects

Acronym Title Duration
LONGTIMELong Term Impact of ancient Amerindian settlements on Guianese forests2016 - 2019
METISTModelling tropical diversity and forest functioning in space and time2016 - 2019
AFRODYN Central AFrican Rain fOrests: past DYNamics and future resilience2015 - 2017
DYNFORDIVForçages environnementaux et anthropiques du turno2014 - 2018
RAINBIOAfrican RAIN forest community dynamics: implications for tropical BIOdiversity conservation and climate change mitigation2014 - 2016
COFORTIPSCongo basin forests: tipping points for biodiversity conservation and resilience of forested social and ecological systems.2013 - 2016

Major publications

  • Réjou-Méchain, M., Flores, O., Pélissier, R., Fayolle, A., Fauvet, N. & Gourlet-Fleury, S., 2014. Tropical tree assembly depends on the interactions between successional and soil filtering processes. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23: 1440-1449. [Editor link]
  • Munoz, F., Ramesh, B. R., Couteron, P., 2014. How do habitat filtering and niche conservatism affect community composition at different taxonomic resolutions. Ecology, 95: 2179-2191. [Editor link]
  • ter Steege, H., Pitman, N. C. A., Sabatier, D., Baraloto, C., Salomão, R. P., Guevara, J. E., Phillips, O. L., Castilho, C. V., Magnusson, W. E., Molino, J.-F., et al., 2013. Hyperdominance in the Amazonian Tree Flora. Science, 342: 1-9. [Editor link]
  • Viennois, G., Barbier, N., Fabre, I., Couteron, P., 2013. Multiresolution quantification of deciduouness in West central African Forest. Biogeosciences, 10: 6957-6967. [Editor link]
  • Laurans, M., Martin, O., Nicolini, E., Vincent, G., 2012. Functional traits and their plasticity predict tropical trees regeneration niche even among species with intermediate light requirements. Journal of Ecology, 100: 1440–1452. [Editor link]

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