Oligarchies in Amazonian tree communities: A ten-year review


Journal Article

This paper revisits various hypotheses about oligarchic patterns in Amazonian tree communities put forward by Pitman et al. (2001). Together, these hypotheses predict that most lowland sites in the Amazon are located within large patches of relatively homogeneous edaphic and other environmental conditions, where an oligarchy of common, frequent tree species accounts for a majority of trees. To assess the degree to which these hypotheses have been corroborated or refuted over the last ten years, we reviewed > 200 studies published since 2001. We found overwhelming support for the hypo thesis that large-scale oligarchies of common and frequent species are a common feature of Amazonian tree communities. At least 22 studies have documented oligarchies in Amazonian woody plant communities to date, and no studies have looked for oligarchies as defined by Pitman et al. (2001) and failed to find them. We argue that six publications that offer critiques of the oligarchy hypothesis do not constitute valid tests. The other hypotheses in Pitman et al. (2001)- one regarding the specific oligarchic taxa that dominate forests near the eastern base of the Andes and one that attempts to explain why oligarchic species exist - are less well supported by the literature, in large part because they have not been subjected to many tests. We discuss links between these hypotheses and other well-known patterns and hypotheses in ecology (the abundance-occupancy relationship, the Janzen-Connell hypothesis, the niche-environment hypothesis, and the niche breadth hypothesis), and provide additional detail to facilitate rigorous tests in the future. The paper concludes by presenting remote sensing evidence that large patches of relatively homogeneous environmental conditions account for most of the upland forest landscape across Amazonian Peru. © 2013 The Authors.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Pitman, NCA; Silman, MR; Terborgh, JW

Published Date

  • February 1, 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 36 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 114 - 123

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1600-0587

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0906-7590

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1600-0587.2012.00083.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus