Shoot life span in relation to successional status in deciduous broad-leaved tree species in a temperate forest


Author for correspondence: Kenji Seiwa Tel: +81 229 84 7311 Fax: +81 229 84 6490 Email:


  • • In trees, leaf life span is closely related to successional status. Although leaves are attached to shoots, shoot life span has been insufficiently studied in the context of ecological systems.
  • • Interspecific variation in shoot survivorship was investigated over 27 months in 15 temperate hardwood tree species. Relationships between shoot architecture and shoot survival were also investigated.
  • • Shoot life span was shortest in early successional species, and longest in late successional species, in each of the families Betulaceae and Fagaceae. In Salicaceae, all of which were early successional species, shoot life span was longer in mountainous than in riparian species. Early successional or riparian species distributed longer shoots densely, even in proximal positions on mother shoots, resulting in mutual shading and consequent early and massive shoot shedding. By contrast, late successional or mountainous species concentrated shoots in distal positions, allowing shoots to receive equally favorable light, resulting in a longer life span.
  • • These results reveal close relationships between shoot life span and environmental resource availability or successional status and suggest a causal relationship between shoot shedding and shoot architecture.