Buttress trees are prominent in tropical rainforests, providing mechanical support for canopy trees. Other ecological functions of these structures remain unclear. By conducting studies in a 1-ha permanent rainforest plot in Xishuangbanna, Dr. Tang Yong of XTBG and his colleagues made research advances in ecological functions of buttress trees.
The study was conducted in a 1-ha permanent rainforest plot managed by the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, at Xishuangbanna, southwest China (21°51′ N, 101°12′ E). This area has a typical monsoon climate with an annual rainfall of 1,493 mm recorded at the climatological station of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG).
In the study, the researchers measured effects of buttresses on soil water, leaf litter distribution and soil nutrient gradients in a rainforest on a hill slope, and demonstrate that they function as barriers to down-slope movement of nutrients and water, increasing habitat heterogeneity and promoting seedling diversity in this tropical rainforest.
The research entitled “Buttress trees elevate soil heterogeneity and regulate seedling diversity in a tropical rainforest” has been published online in Plant and Soil, doi: 10.1007/s11104-010-0546-4.