Date of Award

Fall 9-11-2021




Master of Science

Degree Type

Master of Biology



First Advisor

Dr. Kevin S. Burgess

Second Advisor

Dr. Clifton Ruehl


The Andean forest provides a natural laboratory for evaluating long-term interactions between forests and variation in environmental parameters along elevational gradients. In particular, the mechanisms that control above-ground carbon stocks (AGC) and natural dynamics in mountain ecosystems constitute a potentially powerful tool for understanding the function of these ecosystems and their response to current climate change scenarios or past human disturbances.

The present study integrates biotic (rarefied species richness and leaf traits) and abiotic (climate, soil properties and degradation) factors as possible drivers of AGC stocks, AGC net change (AGCnt), AGC productivity (AGCp) and AGC mortality (AGCk), along an elevational gradient of ca. 3000 m in the montane forests of the Ecuadorian Andes. My findings show that AGC metrics respond to elevational gradients (climate conditions) and past human disturbances. I found that temperature constitutes the primary filter for forest structure, AGC stocks, AGCnt and AGCp along the elevational gradient, where abiotic factors such as degradation and soil properties represent the main drivers for AGCk. This study provides insight into the processes that control patterns of AGC metrics in mountainous ecosystems, where temperature is likely the most important source of AGC variation in Andean forests.