Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 April 2012
Spatial association patterns reflect underlying mechanisms of coexistence, community structure of plant species in tropical forests. We hypothesized that if spatial associations between two species shift toward segregation patterns during the course of growth, deterministic mechanisms, such as interspecific competition and habitat differentiation, would prevail, whereas if no directed change in spatial associations between two species is observed and, consequently, the initial association pattern is retained through growth, the two species would experience weak interspecific competition and show no habitat differentiation. To assess the underlying mechanisms operating between confamilial species, we analysed spatial associations among 11 dipterocarp species in terms of three growth stages distinguished on the basis of dbh in the Pasoh 50-ha plot in Peninsular Malaysia. We analysed the spatial associations of all possible combinations among identical stages (165 pairs) and among different stages (330 pairs) for each pair of 11 species, except between identical species. Our previous study revealed that the 11 species could be characterized into two classes: seven fast-growing species exhibited high growth and mortality rates, spatial aggregation on a small scale, and positive habitat associations, while four slow-growing species exhibited low growth and mortality rates, spatial aggregation on a large scale, and no habitat associations except one. Spatial segregation was observed between fast-growing species (32 pairs, 17%) and between species of different classes (35 pairs, 14%), but not between slow-growing species. Throughout the growth stages, positive associations with other species were maintained for slow-growing species versus fast-growing species. In contrast, changes in initial associations toward segregation were observed more in fast-growing species. These results indicated that interspecific competition or habitat differentiation dominated for fast-growing species, while non-directed random processes dominated for slow-growing species.