Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 329–338 | Cite as

Growth, allometry and shade tolerance of understory saplings of four subalpine conifers in central Japan

  • Koichi TakahashiEmail author
  • Yoshiko Obata
Regular Paper


The conifers Abies veitchii, A. mariesii, Picea jezoensis var. hondoensis, Tsuga diversifolia dominate in subalpine forests in central Japan. We expected that species differences in shade tolerance and in aboveground and belowground architecture are important for their coexistence. We examined net production and carbon allocation of understory saplings. Although the four species allocated similar amounts of biomass to roots at a given trunk height, the root-zone area of T. diversifolia was greater than that of the three other species. T. diversifolia often dominates shallow soil sites, such as ridge and rocky slopes, and, therefore, a wide spread of lateral roots would be an adaptation to such edaphic conditions. Crown width and leaf and branch mass were greatest for T. diversifolia and A. mariesii, followed in order by A. veitchii and P. jezoensis var. hondoensis. Although leaf mass of P. jezoensis var. hondoensis was lowest among the four species, species differences were not found in the net production per sapling because net production per leaf mass was greatest for P. jezoensis var. hondoensis. The leaf lifespan was longer in the order A. mariesii, T. diversifolia, P. jezoensis var. hondoensis and A. veitchii. The minimum rate of net production per leaf mass required to maintain the current sapling leaf mass (MRNPLM) was lowest in A. mariesii and T. diversifolia, and increased in the order of A. veitchii and P. jezoensis var. hondoensis. A. mariesii and T. diversifolia may survive in shade conditions by a lower MRNPLM than the two other species. Therefore, species differences in aboveground and belowground architecture and MRNPLM reflected their shade tolerance and regeneration strategies, which contribute to their coexistence.


Allocation Crown architecture Conifer Net production Regeneration 



We are grateful to the handling editor for his valuable comments. This study was partially supported by grants from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.


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Copyright information

© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan
  2. 2.Institute of Mountain ScienceShinshu UniversityMatsumotoJapan

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