Interspecific demographic trade-offs and soil-related habitat associations of tree species along resource gradients

Authors

  • Sabrina E. Russo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Tropical Forest Science – Arnold Arboretum Asia Program, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA;
      *Correspondence author. School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. E-mail: srusso2@unl.edu
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  • Patrick Brown,

    1. Cancer Care Ontario and Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; and
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  • Sylvester Tan,

    1. Forest Research Centre, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
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  • Stuart J Davies

    1. Center for Tropical Forest Science – Arnold Arboretum Asia Program, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA;
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Errata

This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 96, Issue 6, 1330, Article first published online: 24 September 2008

*Correspondence author. School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. E-mail: srusso2@unl.edu

Summary

  • 1Interspecific relationships between fundamental demographic rates, often called demographic trade-offs, emerge from constraints within individuals related to morphology, physiology and resource allocation. Plant species that grow fast in high light usually have high mortality in shade, and this well-established relationship in part defines a species’ successional niche. More generally, this relationship represents a trade-off between a species’ ability to grow quickly to exploit abundant resources vs. avoiding mortality when resources are less plentiful, but few studies have described this demographic trade-off with respect to environmental factors other than light.
  • 2Using demographic data from 960 tree species in Bornean rain forest, we examined the evidence for an interspecific demographic trade-off between fast growth and low mortality and its variation among habitats defined by variation in soil fertility and moisture. Such a trade-off could contribute to sorting of tree species among habitats and partly explain the striking patterns of species’ edaphic associations in this and other forests.
  • 3We found strong evidence for this demographic trade-off, both within the same habitat and when growth on edaphically rich habitats was compared with mortality on a habitat with lower below-ground resource availability.
  • 4The slope of the growth-mortality relationship varied among habitats, being steepest on the habitat lowest in below-ground resources. For species with the fastest potential growth rates, mortality was higher on this habitat than at comparable growth rates on the three more edaphically rich habitats, providing a possible mechanism by which fast-growing species may be eliminated from the poorest habitat. Adaptations for fast growth may entail a greater mortality risk, if inherently fast-growing species fail to maintain a positive C-balance when below-ground resources are scarce.
  • 5Conversely, for species with the slowest potential growth rates, the highest species’ mortality rates occurred on the habitats with greatest below-ground resource availability, implying that slow-growing species may have a competitive disadvantage in resource-rich environments.
  • 6Synthesis. Differences among habitats in the steepness of this trade-off may sort species into different habitats along this edaphic gradient, whereas on the same soil, this demographic trade-off could facilitate coexistence of at least some species in this forest. Thus, by generating emergent demographic trade-offs that vary along resource gradients, plant life-history strategies can influence species diversity and distribution.

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