Tree mode of death and mortality risk factors across Amazon forests

Adriane Esquivel-Muelbert*, Oliver L. Phillips, Roel J.W. Brienen, Sophie Fauset, Martin J.P. Sullivan, Timothy R. Baker, Kuo Jung Chao, Ted R. Feldpausch, Emanuel Gloor, Niro Higuchi, Jeanne Houwing-Duistermaat, Jon Lloyd, Haiyan Liu, Yadvinder Malhi, Beatriz Marimon, Ben Hur Marimon Junior, Abel Monteagudo-Mendoza, Lourens Poorter, Marcos Silveira, Emilio Vilanova TorreEsteban Alvarez Dávila, Jhon del Aguila Pasquel, Everton Almeida, Patricia Alvarez Loayza, Ana Andrade, Luiz E.O.C. Aragão, Alejandro Araujo-Murakami, Eric Arets, Luzmila Arroyo, Gerardo A. Aymard C, Michel Baisie, Christopher Baraloto, Plínio Barbosa Camargo, Jorcely Barroso, Lilian Blanc, Damien Bonal, Frans Bongers, René Boot, Foster Brown, Benoit Burban, José Luís Camargo, Wendeson Castro, Victor Chama Moscoso, Jerome Chave, James Comiskey, Fernando Cornejo Valverde, Antonio Lola da Costa, Nallaret Davila Cardozo, Anthony Di Fiore, Eurídice Honorio Coronado

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


The carbon sink capacity of tropical forests is substantially affected by tree mortality. However, the main drivers of tropical tree death remain largely unknown. Here we present a pan-Amazonian assessment of how and why trees die, analysing over 120,000 trees representing > 3800 species from 189 long-term RAINFOR forest plots. While tree mortality rates vary greatly Amazon-wide, on average trees are as likely to die standing as they are broken or uprooted—modes of death with different ecological consequences. Species-level growth rate is the single most important predictor of tree death in Amazonia, with faster-growing species being at higher risk. Within species, however, the slowest-growing trees are at greatest risk while the effect of tree size varies across the basin. In the driest Amazonian region species-level bioclimatic distributional patterns also predict the risk of death, suggesting that these forests are experiencing climatic conditions beyond their adaptative limits. These results provide not only a holistic pan-Amazonian picture of tree death but large-scale evidence for the overarching importance of the growth–survival trade-off in driving tropical tree mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5515
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2020


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