Research Highlights: Functional diversity studies help to better understand how organisms respond to different environmental conditions. Conditions in tropical flooded forests are highly variable, including levels of nutrient availability, pH, and flood depth, but few studies have explored the impact of variation in these factors on plant functional diversity. Background and Objectives: In the Orinoco basin, as in the Amazon, floodplain forests have been classified into várzea (white-water rivers, with nutrient-rich soils) and igapó (black-water rivers, associated with nutrient-poor soils). We evaluated the functional diversity of plant species in várzea and igapó, as well as the influence of external and internal filters on the plant community assembly of each forest type, and compared our results with studies in the Amazon basin. Materials and Methods: Six functional traits were recorded in the várzea and igapó forests of the Colombian Orinoco basin (one-hectare plot for each forest type, with no replicates). We evaluated plant species diversity (richness, Fisher’s α, Shannon and Simpson indices), as well as functional diversity (functional richness, functional evenness, functional divergence, and functional dispersion) and the influence of external and internal filters, based on a comparison of variance at different organizational levels. Results: A high functional differentiation between várzea and igapó was found, as well as a high functional divergence within each forest type. We also observed a greater influence of internal filters on the community assembly of both forest types, compared to external filters. Functional traits such as wood density and leaf dry matter content, showed the same patterns as the várzea and igapó forests in the Amazon. Conclusions: Despite the low taxonomic and functional richness, there is high functional divergence within flooded forests. We also show that in forests under stress (e.g., from flooding), internal filters can be key in assembling communities and promote high functional divergence. Given that the functional diversity of the várzea and igapó in the Orinoco is largely unexplored, we highlight the need for more research for the effective conservation of these flooded forests.
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