Gap size partitioning of neotropical pioneers: responses to multiple interacting factors determine growth and survival in the field

T. R. H. Pearson, David Francis Robert Philip Burslem, R. E. Goeriz, J. W. Dalling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Adaptive trade-offs underlie the specialisation that permits habitat partitioning in species rich plant communities. We investigated the influence of the trade-offs that determine differences in growth and survival among six species of neotropical pioneer trees in gaps in semideciduous forest in Panama. Seedlings of Miconia argentea, Cecropia insignis, Luehea seemannii, Trema micrantha, Ochroma pyramidale and Croton bilbergianus were planted into artificial small (25 m(2)), medium (64 m(2)) and large (225 m(2)) gaps in secondary forest in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument. Trema and Ochroma suffered greater than or equal to50% mortality across all gap sizes, while Cecropia had high mortality only during the dry season and in the small gaps, and Miconia and Croton suffered low to zero mortality across all environments. The highest growth rates in large gaps were attained by Cecropia seedlings and in the smaller gaps by Miconia seedlings, although there were indications that Trema and Ochroma required gaps that were larger than any used in this study. Variation in growth and mortality could not be attributed to differences in foliar herbivore damage. Instead, there was strong evidence of a trade-off between maximum growth in the wet season and the ability to survive seasonal drought, particularly in small gaps. We conclude that variation in allocation in response to multiple limiting resources may be as important as allocation to growth and defence in determining the habitat preferences of neotropical pioneers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-465
Number of pages9
JournalOecologia
Volume137
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Keywords

  • Panama
  • seedling
  • species richness
  • trade-off
  • tropical forest
  • LOWLAND TROPICAL FOREST
  • SHADE TOLERANCE
  • PHYSIOLOGICAL ECOLOGY
  • RELATIVE IMPORTANCE
  • PLANT-COMMUNITIES
  • POPLAR SEEDLINGS
  • LIGHT GRADIENT
  • TREE SEEDLINGS
  • CHANGE RANK
  • SEED SIZE

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