The interspecific growth–mortality trade-off is not a general framework for tropical forest community structure

Resource allocation within trees is a zero-sum game. Unavoidable trade-offs dictate that allocation to growth-promoting functions curtails other functions, generating a gradient of investment in growth versus survival along which tree species align, known as the interspecific growth–mortality trade-off. This paradigm is widely accepted but not well established. Using demographic data for 1,111 tree species across ten tropical forests, we tested the generality of the growth–mortality trade-off and evaluated its underlying drivers using two species-specific parameters describing resource allocation strategies: tolerance of resource limitation and responsiveness of allocation to resource access. Globally, a canonical growth–mortality trade-off emerged, but the trade-off was strongly observed only in less disturbance-prone forests, which contained diverse resource allocation strategies. Only half of disturbance-prone forests, which lacked tolerant species, exhibited the trade-off. Supported by a theoretical model, our findings raise questions about whether the growth–mortality trade-off is a universally applicable organizing framework for understanding tropical forest community structure.

Sabrina E. Russo, Sean M. McMahon, Matteo Detto, Glenn Ledder, S. Joseph Wright, Richard S. Condit, Stuart J. Davies, Peter S. Ashton, Sarayudh Bunyavejchewin, Chia-Hao Chang-Yang, Sisira Ediriweera, Corneille E. N. Ewango, Christine Fletcher, Robin B. Foster, C.V. Savi Gunatilleke, I.A.U. Nimal Gunatilleke, Terese Hart, Chang-Fu Hsieh, Stephen P. Hubbell, Akira Itoh, Abddul Rahman Kassim, Yao Tze Leong, Yi Ching Lin, Jean-Remy Makana, Mohizah Bt. Mohamad, Perry Ong, Anna Sugiyama, I-Fang Sun, Sylvester Tan, Jill Thompson, Takuoa Yamakura, Sandra L. Yap, & Jess K. Zimmerman
Nature Ecology & Evolution