Architecture of 53 rain forest tree species differing in adult stature and shade tolerance

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182 Citations (Scopus)


Tree architecture determines a tree's light capture, stability, and efficiency of crown growth. The hypothesis that light demand and adult stature of tree species within a community, independently of each other, determine species' architectural traits was tested by comparing 53 Liberian rain forest tree species. We evaluated-whether species differed in their tree height, crown depth, and crown diameter, when compared at a standardized size of 15-cm diameter at breast height, and how their architecture changed early during ontogeny. Tree height was positively correlated with adult stature and light demand. By producing a relatively slender stem, large-stature species are able to rapidly reach their reproductive size, at a low cost for construction and support. Light-demanding species need a slender stem to be able to attain or maintain a position in the canopy. Both crown depth and crown diameter were negatively correlated with adult stature, but not with light demand. This is in contrast with the hypothesis that shade-tolerant species should have a shallow crown to reduce self-shading in a light-limited environment. Investing energy in height growth rather than lateral crown growth allows a rapid vertical stem extension, but crown diameter has to be sufficiently small to reduce the risk of mechanical failure. All architectural patterns were maintained during ontogeny. The key factors driving interspecific differences in tree architecture are the costs of height extension and mechanical stability. In general, light demand and adult stature represent independent axes of architectural differentiation, affecting tree architecture in different ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-608
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • emergent trees
  • life-history
  • height
  • allometry
  • saplings
  • patterns
  • canopy
  • growth


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