, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 411–424 | Cite as

Responses of crown architecture in Betula pendula to competition are dependent on the species of neighbouring trees

  • Anna Lintunen
  • Pekka Kaitaniemi
Original Paper


We measured the growth responses of individual shoots and branches of Betula pendula when growing next to trees of the same species or Pinus sylvestris, Larix sibirica or Alnus glutinosa. We used the three-dimensionally digitized response variables and the size and distance of trees growing within a 5-m radius of the study trees to establish a relationship between tree performance and the effect of competing neighbouring tree species on crown architecture. B. pendula was able to modify its crown architecture and thus alter its strategy to compete with different neighbours. Trees of B. pendula growing beside species counterparts had the highest growth of new long shoots in relation to the already existing branch length [growth vigour (GV)], while GV was the lowest next to L. sibirica. With B. pendula or P. sylvestris as its main neighbour, B. pendula invested in short shoots by growing them rather densely in short branches with limited numbers, whereas with L. sibirica the number, length and angle of the branches were high. The competitive response was also strongly dependent on tree ontogeny and the shoot and branch characteristics were significantly affected by their location inside the crown. B. pendula was able to respond to the challenges posed by its neighbours, which was also reflected in the GV. The ability to maintain steady growth with alternative crown designs in different neighbourhoods reflects plasticity in the crown responses.


Acclimation Betula pendula Competition Crown architecture Shoot growth Neighbour effect 



We thank Sauli Valkonen for making possible the use of four experimental stands of the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) in the study. Niina Miettinen, Reijo Pankka and Tiina Sauvula are thanked for their assistance in the field and laboratory. We also thank Jari Perttunen and Mika Lehtonen of Metla for enabling the visualization of trees in the Lignum modelling system. Thanks are also due to Eero Nikinmaa for constructive comments on the manuscript. The study was financed by the Academy of Finland and by the Finnish Graduate School in Forest Science.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forest SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Hyytiälä Forestry Field StationUniversity of HelsinkiKorkeakoskiFinland

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