Physiological ecology - Original research


, Volume 173, Issue 1, pp 45-57

First online:

Tradeoffs in basal area growth and reproduction shift over the lifetime of a long-lived tropical species

  • Christina L. StaudhammerAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Alabama
  • , Lúcia H. O. WadtAffiliated withCentro de Pesquisa Agroflorestal do Acre (Embrapa Acre)
  • , Karen A. KainerAffiliated withSchool of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of FloridaCenter for Latin American Studies, University of Florida Email author 

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Understanding of the extent to which reproductive costs drive growth largely derives from reproductively mature temperate trees in masting and non-masting years. We modeled basal area increment (BAI) and explored current growth–reproduction tradeoffs and changes in such allocation over the life span of a long-lived, non-masting tropical tree. We integrated rainfall and soil variables with data from 190 Bertholletia excelsa trees of different diameter at breast height (DBH) sizes, crown characteristics, and liana loads, quantifying BAI and reproductive output over 4 and 6 years, respectively. While rainfall explains BAI in all models, regardless of DBH class or ontogenic stage, light (based on canopy position and crown form) is most critical in the juvenile (5 cm ≤ DBH < 50 cm) phase. Suppressed trees are only present as juveniles and grow ten times slower (1.45 ± 2.73 m2 year−1) than trees in dominant and co-dominant positions (13.25 ± 0.82 and 12.90 ± 1.35 m2 year−1, respectively). Additionally, few juvenile trees are reproductive, and those that are, demonstrate reduced growth, as do reproductive trees in the next 50 to 100 cm DBH class, suggesting growth–reproduction tradeoffs. Upon reaching the canopy, however, and attaining a sizeable girth, this pattern gradually shifts to one where BAI and reproduction are influenced independently by variables such as liana load, crown size and soil properties. At this stage, BAI is largely unaffected by fruit production levels. Thus, while growth–reproduction tradeoffs clearly exist during early life stages, effects of reproductive allocation diminish as B. excelsa increases in size and maturity.


Bertholletia excelsa Dendrometer bands Fruit production Non-masting Tropical forest