It is not hyperbole to say that there has been an explosion of research on tropical forest ecology over the past few decades. The establishment of large forest dynamics plots in tropical forests worldwide, in and of itself, has led to a near revolution in our understanding of forest change.
In addition, there has been a substantial increase in the use of models and experiments to test longstanding theories developed to explain the striking patterns found in tropical forests and the putative mechanisms that underlie these patterns.
When we started this project, we felt that a comprehensive synthesis of tropical forest community ecology was necessary in order to help the field move forward. Of course, no single volume could do this.
Nonetheless, this book is our attempt to make a significant contribution to the field, and to ask anew: What are the main theories in tropical ecology, and which ones are supported or refuted by empirical data? Thus, we have attempted to assemble a volume that describes the most up-to-date findings on the important theories of tropical forest community ecology.
We hope that this book accomplishes this goal to the degree possible, while at the same time providing road map of what we know, what we think we know, and where future research is most needed.
The focus of the chapters in the volume is at the community level because this is where some of the most fundamental questions in tropical ecology exist.
Indeed, perhaps the greatest challenge to community ecologist is to explain what processes account for the maintenance of the staggering diversity of plants and animals common in tropical forests around the globe. Still, our emphasis on communities definitely reflects our bias as community ecologists. While we have focused on communities, we certainly recognize the important contributions to tropical ecology that have come from those who study different levels of ecological organization.
Indeed, it is difficult to understand communities without understanding the ecology of populations and individuals. We decided to focus on forest communities because, to date, that is where the bulk of research on tropical community ecology has been conducted. We acknowledge that our focus has forced us to omit many important studies.
Nonetheless, the emphasis on tropical forest community ecology provides enough material to fill multiple edited volumes, and thus we have attempted to focus on the areas that have received the most empirical attention, alongwith some topics that are currently nascent, but are rapidly becomingkey areas in tropical ecology. Each chapter in this book was reviewed by at least two relevant experts. We thank these reviewers for their efforts and we are indebted to all of them. We will not list them by name, thus allowingthem to remain anonymous.We also thank the production team at Newgen Imaging Systems, and our editors at Blackwell for guiding us through the publication process.
This book, as with all edited volumes, would not have been possible without the dedicated contributions of the authors, each of whom is an expert in his or her respective area of study. For their hard work, truly top-notch contributions, and their patience throughout this process, we owe them a great deal of gratitude.
This book is a tribute to their research, along with the research of all of the other scientists whose work is cited in this volume.