Tropical forest composition and function across space and time: Insights from diverse gradients in Área de Conservación Guanacaste

Catherine M. Hulshof, Jennifer S. Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Environmental gradients have played a pivotal role in the history and development of plant ecology and are useful for testing ecological and evolutionary theory. Área de Conservación Guanacaste is a spatio-temporal mosaic of forests that have evolved continuously across elevation, topography, soil types, succession, and annual and inter-annual climatic change. Studies of plant ecology across diverse gradients of ACG have shaped functional ecology, successional theory, community assembly, plant–herbivore interactions, among many other fields. In this review, we synthesize the, perhaps overlooked, role plant ecological studies of ACG have had on our understanding of tropical forest dynamics. We outline present-day processes that will have major impacts on forest dynamics of ACG in the future and highlight how ACG will continue to shape future research priorities in plant ecology. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1065-1075
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are indebted to the directors, staff, and parataxonomists of ACG, especially A. Masis, R. Espinosa, A. Guadamuz, and D. Perez. We thank Roger Blanco, Milena Gutiérrez Leitón, Maria Marta Chavarría, Dan Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs for supporting our work in ACG throughout the years. Any omissions of important plant ecology research in ACG were unintentional and we regret it. Reviewer and editor suggestions improved the breadth and depth of this manuscript, for which we are grateful. CMH is supported by an NSF MacroSystems in Biology Early Career Award (NSF-MSB-ECA #1833358). JSP is supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program (award number DESC0014363).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation


  • Costa Rica
  • climate change
  • conservation
  • ecological theory
  • environmental gradient
  • forest dynamics
  • tropical forest restoration


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