Understanding crown shyness from a 3D perspective

Jens Van Der Zee, Alvaro Lau, Alexander Shenkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and Aims: Crown shyness describes the phenomenon in which tree crowns avoid growing into each other, producing a puzzle-like pattern of complementary tree crowns in the canopy. Previous studies found that tree slenderness plays a role in the development of crown shyness. Attempts to quantify crown shyness have largely been confined to 2D approaches. This study aimed to expand the current set of metrics for crown shyness by quantifying the characteristic of 3D surface complementarity between trees displaying crown shyness, using LiDAR-derived tree point clouds. Subsequently, the relationship between crown surface complementarity and slenderness of trees was assessed. Methods: 14 trees were scanned using a laser scanning device. Individual tree points clouds were extracted semi-automatically and manually corrected where needed. A metric that quantifies the surface complementarity ( ) of a pair of protein molecules is adopted from Lawrence and Colman (1993) and applied to point clouds of pairs of adjacent trees. 3D tree crown surfaces were generated from point clouds by computing their α-shapes. Key Results: Tree pairs that were visually determined to have overlapping crowns scored significantly lower -values than pairs that did not overlap (n=14, p<0.01). Furthermore, average slenderness of pairs of trees correlated positively with their -score (R 2=0.484, p<0.01), showing accordance with previous studies on crown shyness. Conclusions: The characteristic of crown surface complementarity present in trees displaying crown shyness was succesfully quantified using a 3D surface complementarity metric adopted from molecular biology. Crown surface complementarity showed a positive relationship to tree slenderness, similar to other metrics used for measuring crown shyness. The 3D metric developed in this study revealed how trees adapt the shape of their crowns to those of adjacent trees and how this is linked to the slenderness of the trees.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermcab035
JournalAnnals of Botany
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Feb 2021

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