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Size dominance regulates tree spacing more than competition within height classes in tropical Cameroon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 December 2010

Stephan Getzin*
Department of Ecosystem Modelling, Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology, University of Goettingen, Buesgenweg 4, 37077 Goettingen, Germany
Martin Worbes
Department of Agronomy in the Tropics, Faculty of Crop Sciences, University of Goettingen, Grisebachstraße 6, 37077 Goettingen, Germany
Thorsten Wiegand
Department of Ecological Modelling, UFZ – Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, PF 500136, 04301 Leipzig, Germany
Kerstin Wiegand
Department of Ecosystem Modelling, Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology, University of Goettingen, Buesgenweg 4, 37077 Goettingen, Germany
1Corresponding author. Email:


Does competition prevail in large size classes of trees in tropical forests? This question is fundamental to our understanding of the demography and dynamics occurring in rain forests. We investigated this question based on an undisturbed late-secondary forest on a 1-ha plot in central Cameroon. Trees were stem-mapped and classified into three size classes: understorey, midstorey and overstorey. The diameter at breast height and yearly biomass increment were determined as measures of plant growth and performance. Spatial statistics such as pair- and mark-correlation functions were used to detect scale-dependent patterns that could be caused by competition within and between the three size classes. The results revealed a random pattern and spatially uncorrelated measures of plant growth of overstorey trees. This suggests that competitive effects are of minor importance in the large size class of overstorey trees. Likewise, only weak evidence for competition between trees was found within the two lower size classes. However, negative distance correlations were found between the different size classes. We suggest that competition within height classes was relatively low due to the diversity of species with their variable niche differentiations and phenotypic plasticity that may compensate for competitive effects.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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