Performance of trees in forest canopies: explorations with a bottom-up functional–structural plant growth model


Author for correspondence: Frank Sterck Tel: +31 317 478046 Fax: +31 317 478078 Email:


  • • Here we present a functional–structural plant model that integrates the growth of metamers into a growing, three-dimensional tree structure, and study the effects of different constraints and strategies on tree performance in different canopies.
  • • The tree is a three-dimensional system of connected metamers, and growth is defined by the flush probability of metamers. Tree growth was simulated for different canopy light environments.
  • • The result suggest that: the constraints result in an exponential, logistic and decay phase; a mono-layered-leaf crown results from self-shading in a closed canopy; a strong apical control results in slender trees like tall stature species; the interaction between weak apical control and light response results in a crown architecture and performance known from short stature species in closed forest; correlated leaf traits explain interspecific differences in growth, survival and adult stature.
  • • The model successfully unravels the interaction effects of different constraints and strategies on tree growth in different canopy light environments.