Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Differential seedling growth response to soil resource availability among nine neotropical tree species

  • Christopher Baraloto (a1) (a2), Damien Bonal (a2) and Deborah E. Goldberg (a1)

Although the potential contribution to tropical tree species coexistence of niche differentiation along light gradients has received much attention, the degree to which species perform differentially along soil resource gradients remains unclear. To examine differential growth response to soil resources, we grew seedlings of nine tropical tree species at 6.0% of full sun for 12 mo in a factorial design of two soil types (clay and white sand), two phosphate fertilization treatments (control and addition of 100 mg P kg−1) and two watering treatments (field capacity and water limitation to one-third field capacity). Species differed markedly in biomass growth rate, but this hierarchy was almost completely conserved across all eight treatments. All species grew more slowly in sand than clay soils, and no species grew faster with phosphate additions. Only Eperua grandiflora and E. falcata showed significant growth increases in the absence of water limitation. Faster-growing species were characterized by high specific leaf area, high leaf allocation and high net assimilation rate but not lower root allocation. Slower-growing species exhibited greater plasticity in net assimilation rate, suggesting that tolerance of edaphic stress in these species is related more to stomatal control than to whole-plant carbon allocation. Although relative growth rate for biomass was correlated with both its physiological and morphological components, interspecific differences were best explained by differences in net assimilation rate across six of the eight treatments. A suite of traits including high assimilation and high specific leaf area maintains rapid growth rate of faster-growing species across a wide gradient of soil resources, but the lack of plasticity they exhibit may compromise their survival in the poorest soil environments.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author. UMR Ecofog, BP 709, 97387 Kourou Cedex, French Guiana. Email:
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Tropical Ecology
  • ISSN: 0266-4674
  • EISSN: 1469-7831
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-tropical-ecology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed