Amazonia’s floodplain system is the largest and most biodiverse on Earth. Although forests are crucial to the ecological integrity of floodplains, our understanding of their species composition and how this may differ from surrounding forest types is still far too limited, particularly as changing inundation regimes begin to reshape floodplain tree communities and the critical ecosystem functions they underpin. Here we address this gap by taking a spatially explicit look at Amazonia-wide patterns of tree-species turnover and ecological specialization of the region’s floodplain forests. We show that the majority of Amazonian tree species can inhabit floodplains, and about a sixth of Amazonian tree diversity is ecologically specialized on floodplains. The degree of specialization in floodplain communities is driven by regional flood patterns, with the most compositionally differentiated floodplain forests located centrally within the fluvial network and contingent on the most extraordinary flood magnitudes regionally. Our results provide a spatially explicit view of ecological specialization of floodplain forest communities and expose the need for whole-basin hydrological integrity to protect the Amazon’s tree diversity and its function.
Nature Ecology & Evolution

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Staff publications

Householder, John Ethan, Wittmann, Florian, Schöngart, Jochen, Piedade, Maria Teresa Fernandez, Junk, Wolfgang J., Latrubesse, Edgardo Manuel, … ter Steege, H. (2024). One sixth of Amazonian tree diversity is dependent on river floodplains. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2024. doi:10.1038/s41559-024-02364-1