The consequences of crown traits for the growth and survival of tree saplings in a Mexican lowland rainforest

Authors

  • F. Sterck,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27-3, Xangari 58089, Morelia, Michoacán, México,
    2. Department of Plant Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80084, 3508 TB Utrecht, the Netherlands, and
    3. Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, PO Box 342, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
      *Author to whom correspondence should be addressed at Wageningen University. E-mail: frank.sterck@wur.nl
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  • M. Martinéz-Ramos,

    1. Departamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27-3, Xangari 58089, Morelia, Michoacán, México,
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  • G. Dyer-Leal,

    1. Departamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27-3, Xangari 58089, Morelia, Michoacán, México,
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  • J. Rodríguez-Velazquez,

    1. Departamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27-3, Xangari 58089, Morelia, Michoacán, México,
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  • L. Poorter

    1. Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, PO Box 342, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
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*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed at Wageningen University. E-mail: frank.sterck@wur.nl

Summary

  • 1Many studies discuss the adaptive value of plant architecture, but few have actually measured architectural effects on plant growth and survival. In this study, sapling growth and survival are related to crown traits for two tree species, Trophis mexicana (Liebm.) Bur. and Pseudolmedia oxyphyllaria Donn. Sm., in the Los Tuxtlas lowland rainforest of Mexico. The traits investigated were crown width, crown depth, number of leaves, number of leaves per unit crown area (horizontal self-shading), and number of leaves per unit silhouette area (vertical self-shading).
  • 2Self-shading indices decreased with crown size, but were unaffected by the number of leaves per tree. Larger crowns thus had more diffuse foliage, with less self-shading.
  • 3The number of leaves had positive effects on growth and survival, while self-shading indices had no effect. This indicates that shaded leaves do not necessarily have negative carbon balances.
  • 4Negative effects of crown width on horizontal crown growth, and positive effects on vertical crown growth, suggest that saplings tend to grow towards a shape intermediate between the narrow and wide crown extremes.
  • 5Survival was positively correlated with crown width in Pseudolmedia, and with the number of leaves in Trophis. Apparently, dependence of survival on crown traits differed among species.
  • 6Crown traits affected plant growth and survival, but the hypothesis emerging from light-limited carbon acquisition was confounded by other factors, such as tree size and the inherent branching patterns.
  • 7Crown traits are good and rather simple predictors of future sapling growth and survival, and may help foresters to select potential crop trees.

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