Photosynthetic Characteristics of Tropical Trees Along Successional Gradients

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Abstract

Patterns of tropical succession and species replacement are shaped and determined by the dynamic nature of these forests. Gap-phase succession in tropical forests is driven by changes in resource availability arising from canopy disturbances and associated soil disturbances. Large gaps result primarily from major storms that cause the blowdown of numerous trees, while smaller gaps are created as individual trees lose branches, topple, or die standing (reviewed in Denslow, 1987). When such breaches in the canopy occur, light, temperature, humidity, and nutrients are altered (Chazdon & Fetcher, 1984a; Chiariello, 1984; Fetcher, Oberbauer & Strain, 1985; Ashton, 1992; Vázquez-Yanes & Orozco-Segovia, Chapter 18). Consequently, it is common to find all stages of forest succession occurring within the same forest at any given time along the understory-gap center continuum.