, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 199–214 | Cite as

Heartwood/sapwood profile and the tradeoff between trunk and crown increment in a natural forest: the case study of a tropical tree (Dicorynia guianensis Amsh., Fabaceae)

  • Romain Lehnebach
  • Hélène Morel
  • Julie Bossu
  • Gilles Le Moguédec
  • Nadine Amusant
  • Jacques Beauchêne
  • Eric Nicolini
Original Article


Key message

Sapwood area and the radial growth rate of the trunk follow the same pattern at breast height, with an initial increase and subsequent constant value, resulting from the increasing growth allocation toward the crown rather than tree decline. Heartwood area and heartwood volume in the trunk increase more rapidly after this shift occurs.


Sapwood (SW) and heartwood (HW) are two functionally distinct classifications of wood in perennial stems for which quantities can vary greatly in tropical trees. Numerous positive correlations have been found between the radial growth rate (RGR) and SW quantity; however, variations in the SW/HW quantities have not been studied in light of the ontogenetic variation of RGR. Wood core sampling, intensive measurements of tree structure (number of branches, stem volumes), and radial growth monitoring were performed on an abundant and highly exploited tree species in French Guiana (Dicorynia guianensis) to investigate the relationship between RGR, SW/HW quantity, tree structure, and their variations on the course of a tree’s ontogeny. SW area and RGR followed the same pattern of variation throughout tree development, both increasing first and reaching a steady state after 50 cm DBH (diameter at breast height). After this value, we observed a strong increase in both the HW area and HW volume increment, concomitant with a more rapid increase in crown volume. The stabilization of RGR for trees with DBH > 50 cm was related not to a tree’s decline but rather to an increasing wood allocation to the crown, confirming that RGR at breast height is a poor indicator of whole-tree growth for bigger individuals. We also confirmed that HW formation is an ontogenetic process managing SW quantity that is continuously and increasingly produced within the crown as the tree grows. This study highlights the effect of growth-mediated ontogenetic changes on the localization of water and carbohydrate storage within a tree, resulting from SW and HW dynamics throughout tree ontogeny.


Tropical tree Sapwood Heartwood Growth allocation Ontogeny Dicorynia guianensis 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 43 kb)
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Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 853 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MontpellierMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.CIRAD, UMR AMAP, BP701Kourou CedexFrench Guiana
  3. 3.CNRS, UMR EcoFoG, BP701Kourou CedexFrench Guiana
  4. 4.INRA, UMR AMAPMontpellier Cedex 5France
  5. 5.CIRAD, UMR EcoFoG, BP701Kourou CedexFrench Guiana

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