Tropical mountain ecosystems are threatened by climate and land-use changes. Their diversity and complexity make projections how they respond to environmental changes challenging. A suitable way are trait-based approaches, by distinguishing between response traits that determine the resistance of species to environmental changes and effect traits that are relevant for species' interactions, biotic processes, and ecosystem functions. The combination of those approaches with land surface models (LSM) linking the functional community composition to ecosystem functions provides new ways to project the response of ecosystems to environmental changes. With the interdisciplinary project RESPECT, we propose a research framework that uses a trait-based response-effect-framework (REF) to quantify relationships between abiotic conditions, the diversity of functional traits in communities, and associated biotic processes, informing a biodiversity-LSM. We apply the framework to a megadiverse tropical mountain forest. We use a plot design along an elevation and a land-use gradient to collect data on abiotic drivers, functional traits, and biotic processes. ... mehrWe integrate these data to build the biodiversity-LSM and illustrate how to test the model. REF results show that aboveground biomass production is not directly related to changing climatic conditions, but indirectly through associated changes in functional traits. Herbivory is directly related to changing abiotic conditions. The biodiversity-LSM informed by local functional trait and soil data improved the simulation of biomass production substantially. We conclude that local data, also derived from previous projects (platform Ecuador), are key elements of the research framework. We specify essential datasets to apply this framework to other mountain ecosystems.