The relative importance of above- versus belowground competition for tree growth and survival during early succession of a tropical moist forest

M. van Breugel, P. van Breugel, P.A. Jansen, M. Martinez-Ramos, F. Bongers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Competition between neighboring plants plays a major role in the population dynamics of tree species in the early phases of humid tropical forest succession. We evaluated the relative importance of above- versus below-ground competition during the first years of old-field succession on soil with low fertility in Southern Mexico, using the premise that competition for light is size-asymmetric, unlike competition for nutrients. Plant growth is thus expected to be disproportionally impeded by larger neighbors. We studied how growth and survival of 3.5–5.5 m tall saplings of Cecropia peltata and Trichospermum mexicanum, two pioneer species that dominate the secondary forests in the study region, varied with the abundance and size of neighboring trees in 1–2 year old secondary vegetation. We found that local neighborhood basal area varied 10-fold (3 to 30 cm2 m-2) and explained most of the variation in diameter and height growth of the target saplings. Most growth variables were strongly affected by the neighbors bigger than the focal trees with no significant additive effect of the smaller neighbors, indicating asymmetric competition. Smaller neighbors did have a small but significant additive effect on the diameter growth of Cecropia saplings and stem slenderness of Trichospermum saplings. We conclude that competition for light was more important than belowground competition in this initial phase of moist tropical forest successional, despite the low soil fertility
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-34
JournalPlant Ecology
Volume213
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • plant-populations
  • rain-forests
  • asymmetric competition
  • secondary succession
  • local interference
  • biomass allocation
  • light interception
  • size asymmetry
  • life-history
  • dry forest

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The relative importance of above- versus belowground competition for tree growth and survival during early succession of a tropical moist forest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this