Tree allometries reflect a lifetime of herbivory in an African savanna


  • Corresponding Editor: T. P. Young.


Theories of plant allometry provide a general description of allometric scaling that is supposedly applicable across a wide array of environmental conditions. Scaling theories, however, ignore disturbances such as herbivory in their derivation. Here we examine the influence of herbivores on the scaling of height and diameter of two common African savanna tree species. Using Bayesian piecewise regressions, we show that herbivores modify tree allometry. We also show that the pattern of allometric modification contains information regarding herbivore foraging behavior and the resultant alteration of plant architecture. Interpreting realized allometries in the light of theoretical predictions based on assumptions of zero disturbances may help reveal the degree of herbivore impacts. However, predictions of plant form and function that fail to include disturbances such as herbivory may struggle to find general applicability.