Carbohydrate storage and light requirements of tropical moist and dry forest tree species

L. Poorter, K. Kitajima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

180 Citations (Scopus)


In many plant communities, there is a negative interspecific correlation between relative growth rates and survival of juveniles. This negative correlation is most likely caused by a trade-off between carbon allocation to growth vs. allocation to defense and storage. Nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC) stored in stems allow plants to overcome periods of stress and should enhance survival. In order to assess how species differ in carbohydrate storage in relation to juvenile light requirements, growth, and survival, we quantified NSC concentrations and pool sizes in sapling stems of 85 woody species in moist semi-evergreen and dry deciduous tropical forests in the rainy season in Bolivia. Moist forest species averaged higher NSC concentrations than dry forest species. Carbohydrate concentrations and pool sizes decreased with the light requirements of juveniles of the species in the moist forest but not in the dry forest. Combined, these results suggest that storage is especially important for species that regenerate in persistently shady habitats, as in the understory of moist evergreen forests. For moist forest species, sapling survival rates increased with NSC concentrations and pool sizes while growth rates declined with the NSC concentrations and pool sizes. No relationships were found for dry forest species. Carbon allocation to storage contributes to the growth¿ survival trade-off through its positive effect on survival. And, a continuum in carbon storage strategies contributes to a continuum in light requirements among species. The link between storage and light requirements is especially strong in moist evergreen forest where species sort out along a light gradient, but disappears in dry deciduous forest where light is a less limiting resource and species sort out along drought and fire gradients. Key words: Bolivia; growth¿survival trade-off; shade tolerance; starch; sugar; total nonstructural carbohydrates (NSC); tropical forest.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1000-1011
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • seedling survival
  • leaf traits
  • growth-rate
  • shade
  • allocation
  • patterns
  • ecology
  • size
  • acclimatization
  • regeneration

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