Wood nitrogen concentrations in tropical trees: phylogenetic patterns and ecological correlates



  • In tropical and temperate trees, wood chemical traits are hypothesized to covary with species' life-history strategy along a ‘wood economics spectrum’ (WES), but evidence supporting these expected patterns remains scarce. Due to its role in nutrient storage, we hypothesize that wood nitrogen (N) concentration will covary along the WES, being higher in slow-growing species with high wood density (WD), and lower in fast-growing species with low WD.
  • In order to test this hypothesis we quantified wood N concentrations in 59 Panamanian hardwood species, and used this dataset to examine ecological correlates and phylogenetic patterns of wood N.
  • Wood N varied > 14-fold among species between 0.04 and 0.59%; closely related species were more similar in wood N than expected by chance. Wood N was positively correlated with WD, and negatively correlated with log-transformed relative growth rates, although these relationships were relatively weak. We found evidence for co-evolution between wood N and both WD and log-transformed mortality rates.
  • Our study provides evidence that wood N covaries with tree life-history parameters, and that these patterns consistently co-evolve in tropical hardwoods. These results provide some support for the hypothesized WES, and suggest that wood is an increasingly important N pool through tropical forest succession.