Functional trait differences influence neighbourhood interactions in a hyperdiverse Amazonian forest
As distinct community assembly processes can produce similar community patterns, assessing the ecological mechanisms promoting coexistence in hyperdiverse rainforests remains a considerable challenge. We use spatially explicit neighbourhood models of tree growth to quantify how functional trait and phylogenetic similarities predict variation in growth and crowding effects for the 315 most abundant tree species in a 25‐ha lowland rainforest plot in Ecuador. We find that functional trait differences reflect variation in (1) species maximum potential growth, (2) the intensity of interspecific interactions for some species, and (3) species sensitivity to neighbours. We find that neighbours influenced tree growth in 28% of the 315 focal tree species. Neighbourhood effects are not detected in the remaining 72%, which may reflect the low statistical power to model rare taxa and/or species insensitivity to neighbours. Our results highlight the spectrum of ways in which functional trait differences can shape community dynamics in highly diverse rainforests.