Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Growth and biomass allocation in seedlings of rain-forest trees in New Caledonia: monodominants vs. subordinates and episodic vs. continuous regenerators

  • Jennifer Read (a1), Stephane McCoy (a2), Tanguy Jaffré (a3), Gordon Sanson (a1) and Murray Logan (a4)...

Some species-rich secondary forests in New Caledonia have a monodominant canopy. Here we investigate growth and biomass allocation traits that might explain single-species’ dominance of these post-disturbance stands, and their later decline in the absence of large-scale disturbance. Seedlings of 20 rain-forest trees were grown in two light treatments in a nursery house. In the sun treatment, monodominants grew faster (56.7 ± 1.4 mg g−1 wk−1) than subordinates (40.2 ± 2.6 mg g−1 wk−1). However, some episodically regenerating (ER) subordinates had high growth rates similar to those of monodominants. In the shade treatment, monodominants and subordinates had similar growth rates (33.7 ± 2.6 and 34.0 ± 1.9 mg g−1 wk−1 respectively). Notably, monodominants in both sun and shade treatments had lower root mass fraction (0.29 ± 0.02 and 0.27 ± 0.02 g g−1 respectively) than subordinates (0.39 ± 0.02 and 0.37 ± 0.02 g g−1). Fast growth in sunny conditions is probably imperative for these relatively shade-intolerant ER monodominants. In field conditions, high shoot mass fraction combined with efficient root performance may facilitate faster growth in monodominants competing with other ER species in sunlit sites. Slower growth in shade may contribute to loss of dominance over time in undisturbed forests.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

K. AGYEMAN , M. D. SWAINE & J. THOMPSON 1999. Responses of tropical forest tree seedlings to irradiance and the derivation of a light response index. Journal of Ecology 87:815827.

C. K. AUGSPURGER 1984. Seedling survival of tropical tree species: interactions of dispersal distance, light-gaps, and pathogens. Ecology 65:17051712.

J. L. BALTZER & S. C. THOMAS 2007. Determinants of whole-plant light requirements in Bornean rain forest tree saplings. Journal of Ecology 95:12081221.

M. BÉREAU , D. BONAL , E. LOUISANNA & J. GARBAYE 2005. Do mycorrhizas improve tropical tree seedling performance under water stress and low light conditions? A case study with Dicorynia guianensis (Caesalpiniaceae). Journal of Tropical Ecology 21:375381.

J. M. G. BLOOR 2003. Light responses of shade-tolerant tropical tree species in north-east Queensland: a comparison of forest- and shadehouse-grown seedlings. Journal of Tropical Ecology 19:163170.

J. M. G. BLOOR & P. J. GRUBB 2003. Growth and mortality in high and low light: trends among 15 shade-tolerant tropical rain forest tree species. Journal of Ecology 91:7785.

C. D. CANHAM , R. K. KOBE , E. F. LATTY & R. L. CHAZDON 1999. Interspecific and intraspecific variation in tree seedling survival: effects of allocation to roots versus carbohydrate reserves. Oecologia 121:111.

J. H. CONNELL & M. D. LOWMAN 1989. Low-diversity tropical rain forests: some possible mechanisms for their existence. American Naturalist 134:88119.

A. CORRALES , S. A. MANGAN , B. L. TURNER & J. W. DALLING 2016. An ectomycorrhizal nitrogen economy facilitates monodominance in a neotropical forest. Ecology Letters 19:383392.

D. M. EISSENSTAT 1991. On the relationship between specific root length and the rate of root proliferation: a field study using citrus rootstocks. New Phytologist 118:6368.

R. D. FINLAY & D. J. READ 1986a. The structure and function of the vegetative mycelium of ectomycorrhizal plants. I. Translocation of 14C-labelled carbon between plants interconnected by a common mycelium. New Phytologist 103:143156.

R. D. FINLAY & D. J. READ 1986b. The structure and function of the vegetative mycelium of ectomycorrhizal plants. II. The uptake and distribution of phosphorus by mycelial strands interconnecting host plants. New Phytologist 103:157165.

T. J. GIVNISH 1988. Adaptation to sun and shade: a whole-plant perspective. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 15:6392.

P. T. GREEN , K. E. HARMS & J. H. CONNELL 2014. Nonrandom, diversifying processes are disproportionately strong in the smallest size classes of a tropical forest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 111:1864918654.

P. J. GRUBB & D. J. METCALFE 1996. Adaptation and inertia in the Australian tropical lowland rain-forest flora: contradictory trends in intergeneric and intrageneric comparisons of seed size in relation to light demand. Functional Ecology 10:512520.

T. B. HART 1990. Monospecific dominance in tropical rain forests. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 5:611.

T. B. HART 1995. Seed, seedling and sub-canopy survival in monodominant and mixed forests of the Ituri Forest, Africa. Journal of Tropical Ecology 11:443459.

P. B. HEENAN & R. D. SMISSEN 2013. Revised circumscription of Nothofagus and recognition of the segregate genera Fuscospora, Lophozonia, and Trisyngyne (Nothofagaceae). Phytotaxa 146:131.

T. W. HENKEL , J. R. MAYOR & L. P. WOOLLEY 2005. Mast fruiting and seedling survival of the ectomycorrhizal, monodominant Dicymbe corymbosa (Caesalpiniaceae) in Guyana. New Phytologist 167:543556.

T. HOTHORN , F. BRETZ & P. WESTFALL 2008. Simultaneous inference in general parametric models. Biometrical Journal 50:346363.

R. HUNT , D. R. CAUSTON , B. SHIPLEY & A. P. ASKEW 2002. A modern tool for classical plant growth analysis. Annals of Botany 90:485488.

S. ISNARD , L. L'HUILLIER , F. RIGAULT & T. JAFFRÉ 2016. How did the ultramafic soils shape the flora of the New Caledonian hotspot? Plant and Soil 403:5376.

K. KITAJIMA 1994. Relative importance of photosynthetic traits and allocation patterns as correlates of seedling shade tolerance of 13 tropical trees. Oecologia 98:419428.

K. KITAJIMA , R. A. CORDERO & S. J. WRIGHT 2013. Leaf life span spectrum of tropical woody seedlings: effects of light and ontogeny and consequences for survival. Annals of Botany 112:685699.

R. K. KOBE 1997. Carbohydrate allocation to storage as a basis of interspecific variation in sapling survivorship and growth. Oikos 80:226233.

K. R. KRAMER-WALTER , P. J. BELLINGHAM , T. R. MILLAR , R. D. SMISSEN , S. J. RICHARDSON & D. C. LAUGHLIN 2016. Root traits are multidimensional: specific root length is independent from root tissue density and the plant economic spectrum. Journal of Ecology 104:12991310.

B. B. LAMONT 2003. Structure, ecology and physiology of root clusters – a review. Plant and Soil 248:119.

J. E. LARSON & J. L. FUNK 2016. Seedling root responses to soil moisture and the identification of a belowground trait spectrum across three growth forms. New Phytologist 210:827838.

C. H. LUSK , D. S. FALSTER , C. K. JARA-VERGARA , M. JIMENEZ-CASTILLO & A. SALDAÑA-MENDOZA 2008. Ontogenetic variation in light requirements of juvenile rainforest evergreens. Functional Ecology 22:454459.

C. H. LUSK , M. M. PÉREZ-MILLAQUEO , F. I. PIPER & A. SALDAÑA 2011. Ontogeny, understorey light interception and simulated carbon gain of juvenile rainforest evergreens differing in shade tolerance. Annals of Botany 108:419428.

S. MCCARTHY-NEUMANN & R. K. KOBE 2008. Tolerance of soil pathogens co-varies with shade tolerance across species of tropical tree seedlings. Ecology 89:18831892.

S. MCCOY , T. JAFFRÉ , F. RIGAULT & J. E. ASH 1999. Fire and succession in the ultramafic maquis of New Caledonia. Journal of Biogeography 26:579594.

K. L. MCGUIRE 2007a. Recruitment dynamics and ectomycorrhizal colonization of Dicymbe corymbosa, a monodominant tree in the Guiana Shield. Journal of Tropical Ecology 23:297307.

K. L. MCGUIRE 2007b. Common ectomycorrhizal networks may maintain monodominance in a tropical rain forest. Ecology 88:567574.

P. MORAT 1993. Our knowledge of the flora of New Caledonia: endemism and diversity in relation to vegetation types and substrates. Biodiversity Letters 1:7281.

T. M. MORRISON & D. A. ENGLISH 1967. The significance of mycorrhizal nodules of Agathis australis . New Phytologist 66:245250.

J. A. MYERS & K. KITAJIMA 2007. Carbohydrate storage enhances seedling shade and stress tolerance in a neotropical forest. Journal of Ecology 95:383395.

M. T. NASCIMENTO , R. I. BARBOSA , D. M. VILLELA & J. PROCTOR 2007. Above-ground biomass changes over an 11-year period in an Amazon monodominant forest and two other lowland forests. Plant Ecology 192:181191.

D. M. NEWBERY , G. B. CHUYONG , L. ZIMMERMANN & C. PRAZ 2006. Seedling survival and growth of three ectomycorrhizal Caesalpiniaceous tree species in a Central African rain forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology 22:499511.

D. M. NEWBERY , C. J. PRAZ , X. M. VAN DER BURGT , J. M. NORGHAUER & G. B. CHUYONG 2010. Recruitment dynamics of the grove-dominant tree Microberlinia bisulcata in African rain forest: extending the light response versus adult longevity trade-off concept. Plant Ecology 206:151177.

D. M. NEWBERY , X. M. VAN DER BURGT , M. WORBES & G. B. CHUYONG 2013. Transient dominance in a central African rain forest. Ecological Monographs 83:339382.

U. NIINEMETS 2006. The controversy over traits conferring shade-tolerance in trees: ontogenetic changes revisited. Journal of Ecology 94:464470.

O. O. OSUNKOYA , J. E. ASH , M. S. HOPKINS & A. W. GRAHAM 1994. Influence of seed size and seedling ecological attributes on shade-tolerance of rain-forest tree species in Northern Queensland. Journal of Ecology 82:149163.

K. S.-H. PEH , S. L. LEWIS & J. LLOYD 2011. Mechanisms of monodominance in diverse tropical tree-dominated systems. Journal of Ecology 99:891898.

N. PERRIER , H. AMIR & F. COLIN 2006. Occurrence of mycorrhizal symbioses in the metal-rich lateritic soils of the Koniambo Massif, New Caledonia. Mycorrhiza 16:449458.

L. POORTER 1999. Growth responses of 15 rain-forest tree species to a light gradient: the relative importance of morphological and physiological traits. Functional Ecology 13:396410.

A. PORTSMUTH & Ü. NIINEMETS 2007. Structural and physiological plasticity in response to light and nutrients in five temperate deciduous woody species of contrasting shade tolerance. Functional Ecology 21:6177.

J. READ & T. JAFFRÉ 2013. Populations dynamics of canopy trees in New Caledonian rain forests: are monodominant Nothofagus (Nothofagaceae) forests successional to mixed rain forests? Journal of Tropical Ecology 29:485499.

J. READ , T. JAFFRÉ , E. GODRIE , G. S. HOPE & J.-M. VEILLON 2000. Structural and floristic characteristics of some monodominant and adjacent mixed rainforests in New Caledonia. Journal of Biogeography 27:233250.

J. READ , T. JAFFRÉ , J. M. FERRIS , S. MCCOY & G. S. HOPE 2006. Does soil determine the boundaries of monodominant rain forest with adjacent mixed rain forest and maquis on ultramafic soils in New Caledonia? Journal of Biogeography 33:10551065.

J. READ , G. D. SANSON , M. BURD & T. JAFFRÉ 2008. Mass flowering and parental death in the regeneration of Cerberiopsis candelabra (Apocynaceae), a long-lived monocarpic tree in New Caledonia. American Journal of Botany 95:558567.

J. READ , T. D. FLETCHER , T. WEVILL & A. DELETIC 2010. Plant traits that enhance pollutant removal from stormwater in biofiltration systems. International Journal of Phytoremediation 12:3453.

J. READ , S. MCCOY & T. JAFFRÉ 2015. Shade-tolerance of seedlings of rain-forest trees: monodominants vs. subordinates and episodic vs. continuous regenerators. Journal of Tropical Ecology 31:541552.

C. ROUMET , C. URCELAY & S. DÍAZ 2006. Suites of root traits differ between annual and perennial species growing in the field. New Phytologist 170:357368.

L. SACK & P. J. GRUBB 2001. Why do species of woody seedlings change rank in relative growth rate between low and high irradiance? Functional Ecology 15:145154.

L. SACK & P. J. GRUBB 2003. Crossovers in seedling relative growth rates between low and high irradiance: analyses and ecological potential. Functional Ecology 17:281287.

B. S. STEIDINGER , B. L. TURNER , A. CORRALES & J. W. DALLING 2015. Variability in potential to exploit different soil organic phosphorus compounds among tropical montane tree species. Functional Ecology 29:121130.

S. D. TORTI , P. D. COLEY & T. A. KURSAR 2001. Causes and consequences of monodominance in tropical lowland forests. American Naturalist 157:141153.

F. VALLADARES & Ü. NIINEMETS 2008. Shade tolerance, a key plant feature of complex nature and consequences. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 39:237257.

O. J. VALVERDE-BARRANTES , K. A. SMEMO , L. M. FEINSTEIN , M. W. KERSHNER & C. B. BLACKWOOD 2013. The distribution of below-ground traits is explained by intrinsic species differences and intraspecific plasticity in response to root neighbours. Journal of Ecology 101:933942.

M. B. WALTERS & P. B. REICH 1999. Low-light carbon balance and shade tolerance in the seedlings of woody plants: do winter deciduous and broad-leaved evergreen species differ? New Phytologist 143:143154.

M. B. WALTERS & P. B. REICH 2000. Seed size, nitrogen supply, and growth rate affect tree seedling survival in deep shade. Ecology 81:18871901.

J. R. WATLING , M. C. BALL & I. E. WOODROW 1997. The utilization of lightflecks for growth in four Australian rain-forest species. Functional Ecology 11:231239.

J. WEINER 2004. Allocation, plasticity and allometry in plants. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 6:207215.

W. ZANGARO , R. A. ALVES , L. E. LESCANO & A. P. ANSANELO 2012. Investment in fine roots and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi decrease during succession in three Brazilian ecosystems. Biotropica 44:141150.

W. ZANGARO , L. E. A. M. LESCANO , E. M. MATSUURA , A. B. L. RONDINA & M. A. NOGUEIRA 2016. Differences between root traits of early- and late-successional trees influence below-ground competition and seedling establishment. Journal of Tropical Ecology 32:300313.

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: 4
Total number of PDF views: 71 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 197 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 19th January 2017 - 23rd March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.