Species-specific growth responses to climate variations in understory trees of a Central African rain forest

C. Couralet, F.J. Sterck, U. Sass-Klaassen, J. Van Acker, H. Beekman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Basic knowledge of the relationships between tree growth and environmental variables is crucial for understanding forest dynamics and predicting vegetation responses to climate variations. Trees growing in tropical areas with a clear seasonality in rainfall often form annual growth rings. In the understory, however, tree growth is supposed to be mainly affected by interference for access to light and other resources. In the semi-deciduous Mayombe forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the evergreen species Aidia ochroleuca, Corynanthe paniculata and Xylopia wilwerthii dominate the understory. We studied their wood to determine whether they form annual growth rings in response to changing climate conditions. Distinct growth rings were proved to be annual and triggered by a common external factor for the three species. Species-specific site chronologies were thus constructed from the cross-dated individual growth-ring series. Correlation analysis with climatic variables revealed that annual radial stem growth is positively related to precipitation during the rainy season but at different months. The growth was found to associate with precipitation during the early rainy season for Aidia but at the end of the rainy season for Corynanthe and Xylopia. Our results suggest that a dendrochronological approach allows the understanding of climate–growth relationships in tropical forests, not only for canopy trees but also for evergreen understory species and thus arguably for the whole tree community. Global climate change influences climatic seasonality in tropical forest areas, which is likely to result in differential responses across species with a possible effect on forest composition over time
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-511
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • semi-deciduous forest
  • northern thailand
  • dendroecological analysis
  • drought sensitivity
  • tropical forests
  • water relations
  • pinus-merkusii
  • ring formation
  • radial growth
  • phenology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Species-specific growth responses to climate variations in understory trees of a Central African rain forest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this