, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 651-669

Patterns of tree growth in relation to environmental variability in the tropical dry deciduous forest at Mudumalai, southern India

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Abstract

Tree diameter growth is sensitive to environmental fluctuations and tropical dry forests experience high seasonal and inter-annual environmental variation. Tree growth rates in a large permanent plot at Mudumalai, southern India, were examined for the influences of rainfall and three intrinsic factors (size, species and growth form) during three 4-year intervals over the period 1988–2000.

Most trees had lowest growth during the second interval when rainfall was lowest, and skewness and kurtosis of growth distributions were reduced during this interval. Tree diameter generally explained <10% of growth variation and had less influence on growth than species identity or time interval. Intraspecific variation was high, yet species identity accounted for up to 16% of growth variation in the community. There were no consistent differences between canopy and understory tree growth rates; however, a few subgroups of species may potentially represent canopy and understory growth guilds. Environmentally-induced temporal variations in growth generally did not reduce the odds of subsequent survival.

Growth rates appear to be strongly influenced by species identity and environmental variability in the Mudumalai dry forest. Understanding and predicting vegetation dynamics in the dry tropics thus also requires information on temporal variability in local climate.