Drought-induced shifts in the floristic and functional composition of tropical forests in Ghana


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The future of tropical forests under global environmental change is uncertain, with biodiversity and carbon stocks at risk if precipitation regimes alter. Here, we assess changes in plant functional composition and biomass in 19 plots from a variety of forest types during two decades of long-term drought in Ghana. We find a consistent increase in dry forest, deciduous, canopy species with intermediate light demand and a concomitant decrease in wet forest, evergreen, sub-canopy and shade-tolerant species. These changes in composition are accompanied by an increase in above-ground biomass. Our results indicate that by altering composition in favour of drought-tolerant species, the biomass stocks of these forests may be more resilient to longer term drought than short-term studies of severe individual droughts suggest.