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Habitat Quality Differentiation and Consequences for Ecosystem Service Provision of an Amazonian Hyperdominant Tree Species

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Ecosystem services of Amazonian forests are disproportionally produced by a limited set of hyperdominant tree species. Yet the spatial variation in the delivery of ecosystem services by individual hyperdominant species across their distribution ranges and corresponding environmental gradients is poorly understood. Here, we use the concept of habitat quality to unravel the effect of environmental gradients on seed production and aboveground biomass (AGB) of the Brazil nut, one of Amazonia’s largest and most long-lived hyperdominants. We find that a range of climate and soil gradients create trade-offs between density and fitness of Brazil nut trees. Density responses to environmental gradients were in line with predictions under the Janzen–Connell and Herms–Mattson hypotheses, whereas tree fitness responses were in line with resource requirements of trees over their life cycle. These trade-offs resulted in divergent responses in area-based seed production and AGB. While seed production and AGB of individual trees (i.e., fitness) responded similarly to most environmental gradients, they showed opposite tendencies to tree density for almost half of the gradients. However, for gradients creating opposite fitness-density responses, area-based seed production was invariable, while trends in area-based AGB tended to mirror the response of tree density. We conclude that while the relation between environmental gradients and tree density is generally indicative of the response of AGB accumulation in a given area of forest, this is not necessarily the case for fruit production.

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