Nomenclature: Coates Palgrave (2002).
Multi-stemmed trees in subtropical coastal dune forest: Survival strategy in response to chronic disturbance
Article first published online: 24 FEB 2009
2007 IAVS - the International Association of Vegetation Science
Journal of Vegetation Science
Volume 18, Issue 5, pages 693–700, October 2007
How to Cite
Nzunda, E. F., Griffiths, M. E. and Lawes, M. J. (2007), Multi-stemmed trees in subtropical coastal dune forest: Survival strategy in response to chronic disturbance. Journal of Vegetation Science, 18: 693–700. doi: 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2007.tb02583.x
- Issue published online: 24 FEB 2009
- Article first published online: 24 FEB 2009
- Received 13 October 2006; Accepted 8 February 2007
- Vegetative reproduction
Questions: Is multi-stemming a survival strategy in response to chronic disturbance? Is multi-stemming under phylogenetic control? What environmental factors are associated with multi-stemming? When do trees initiate growth of multiple stems? Do multi-stemmed trees have limited stature?
Location: Subtropical Indian Ocean coastal dune forest at Cape Vidal in the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, northeastern South Africa.
Methods: Tree physiognomy and environmental conditions were sampled in 20 transects that were 300 m long and 5 m wide.
Results: 38.9 % of trees were multi-stemmed, with no correlation between multi-stemming and taxonomic grouping. The multi-stemming trait was most associated with stem decumb-ency and substrate erosion and multi-stemmed individuals were less common in protected dune slacks. Trees at Cape Vidal appear to facultatively produce multiple stems from an early stage. There was no trade-off between tree height and stem number.
Conclusions: Coastal winds and the unstable dune substrate are important environmental correlates of multi-stemming. Both short stature and the high incidence of multi-stemming are related to the tree-disturbance interaction. The taxonomically widespread phenotypic plasticity in this trait indicates the importance of multi-stemming to tree survival even under low levels of disturbance.