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Keywords:

  • Dipterocarpaceae;
  • light;
  • nonlinear growth;
  • Sabah;
  • saplings;
  • SGR;
  • size-specific RGR;
  • tropical lowland forest

Abstract

A continuing challenge in tropical ecology is to explain the coexistence of large numbers of rain forest tree species. One possible coexistence mechanism is partitioning of the highly variable and dynamic forest light environment, in which species that grow better in one light treatment grow worse in another. To test whether species respond differently to the light environment, we estimated growth rates of 21 Dipterocarpaceae species from Malaysian Borneo grown in shade houses for 2 yr in three light treatments (0.3%, 3%, and 18% full sunlight). We made regular measurements of height, diameter, and aboveground biomass, enabling us to calculate growth rates for each response. We estimated size-specific growth rates using nonlinear mixed-effects models, as average relative growth rate was strongly size dependent. For all species, the greatest diameter growth rate was achieved in 18 percent full sunlight, whereas for five of the twenty-one species, the greatest height growth rate was achieved in three percent full sunlight. We investigated correlations among growth rates in different light treatments, but no negative correlations were found, indicating that species growing well in one light treatment did not grow poorly in the others. There were substantial crossovers, however, in species ranks among the three light treatments, indicating that there was no single growth rate hierarchy common to all light treatments. The lack of a single consistent growth hierarchy across light treatments indicates that heterogeneity in the forest light environment could contribute to the maintenance of the diversity of Dipterocarpaceae found in lowland Bornean rain forests via light-based regeneration niches.