Tree architecture and life‐history strategies across 200 co‐occurring tropical tree species

  1. Tree architecture is thought to allow species to partition horizontal and vertical light gradients in the forest canopy. Tree architecture is closely related to light capture, carbon gain and the efficiency with which trees reach the canopy. Previous studies that investigated how light gradients drive differentiation in tree architecture have produced inconsistent results, partially because of the differences in which tree species and ontogenetic stages were studied.
  2. We examined the relationship between stem diameter, tree height, foliage height, crown width and life‐history strategy over a broad size range of 200 randomly selected, co‐occurring tree species in a lowland rainforest in Peninsular Malaysia. We developed a hierarchical Bayesian model to account for both intra‐ and interspecific variation and describe the relationships among tree architectural variables. We analysed interspecific variation in tree architectural variables in relation to adult stature and light requirement for species regeneration as a function of tree size.
  3. There was little interspecific variation in architectural variables, this is partly because of large intraspecific variation in response to canopy heterogeneity, but it also suggests architectural convergence within this community. However, interspecific analyses showed that, for large‐statured species, small size classes had thinner stems with narrow and shallow crowns, whereas large‐size classes had wider crowns. Light‐demanding species (as indicated by high sapling mortality in shaded conditions) showed weak trends in tree architecture and were only characterized by wide crowns at intermediate sizes.
  4. In summary, tree architectural traits overlapped across the species community. This suggests that architectural convergence and equalizing effects occur in this diverse tropical forest and that community‐wide allometric equations can be used to describe forest height and carbon storage. Light resource partitioning also occurs, indicating stabilizing effects. Interspecific architectural variation in relation to adult stature supports the theory of the trade‐off between early reproduction and vegetative growth. In closed rainforests, adult stature imposes a stronger force on architectural differentiation of species than regeneration light requirements.
Yoshiko Iida, Takashi S. Kohyama, Takuya Kubo, Abd Rahman Kassim, Lourens Poorter, Frank Sterck, & Matthew D. Potts
Functional Ecology