Crown development was monitored for juvenile trees (4–18 m) of the canopy tree species Dicorynia guianensis and Vouacapoua americana in a tropical rain forest in French Guiana. A comparison was made between crown development in closed understorey forest sites (low light) and in canopy gaps (high light); development was expressed by plant traits at multiple levels of organisation.
Dicorynia and Vouacapoua responded to gap creation at all organisational levels, but not for all traits. Both species increased their light interception efficiency in the understorey. Firstly, understorey trees produced relatively wide crowns because they did not favour the growth of shoots in the summit of the crown, as did gap trees. Secondly, they reduced self-shading (expressed by leaf area index) by lower sympodial unit production rates, lower leaf production rates per growth unit (only Vouacapoua), and smaller leaf size (only Dicorynia). The reduction in self-shading was weakened by other traits that had the opposite effect on self shading (e.g. longer leaf life span in understorey), and cannot be considered an adaptive response in itself. (3) Understorey trees of Vouacapoua reduced leaf display costs by producing a higher specific leaf area, a shorter space among leaves, a smaller leaf spacing to leaf size ratio, and a longer leaf life span. Thus, all traits contributed to the more economical use of carbon in the understorey. Dicorynia showed the same trends, but not significantly.
These results suggest that light availability plays a major role in the development and morphology of trees through its influences at multiple levels of organisation within the crown hierarchy. The two species studied were rather similar in their response at crown level, while they sometimes differed in their responses at the underlying lower organisational levels. The response directions of some individual plant traits were similar for the tall trees studied here and small saplings studied elsewhere. Some of traits investigated here may not be important in the crown level responses of smaller seedlings and saplings, while they are important mechanisms for crown level responses in taller trees.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ackerly, D. 1996. Canopy structure and dynamics: Integration of growth processes in tropical pioneer trees. Pp. 619-568. In: Mulkey, S. S., Chazdon, R. L. & Smith, A. P. (eds), Tropical forest plant ecophysiology Chapman & Hall, New York.
Aiba, S. & Kohyama, T. 1997. Crown architecture and life-history traits of 14 tree species in a warm-temperate rain forest: significance of spatial heterogeneity. J. Ecol. 85: 611-624.
Alvarez-Buylla, E. R. & Martinez-Ramos, M. 1992. Demography and allometry of Cecropia obtusifolia, a neotropical pioneer tree - an evaluation of the climax - pioneer paradigm for tropical rain forests. J. Ecol. 80: 275-290.
Augspurger, C. K. 1984. Light environments of neotropical tree seedlings: a comparative study of growth and survival. J. Ecol. 72: 777-795.
Barthélémy, D. 1991. Levels of organization and repetition phenomena in seed plants. Acta Biotheoretica 39: 309-323.
Bell, A. D. 1991. lant form, an illustrated guide to flowering plant morphology. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Bongers, F. & Sterck, F. J. 1998. The architecture of tropical rain forest trees: responses to light. Pp. 126-162. In: Newbery, D.M. Brown, N. & Prins H. H. T. (eds), Dynamics of tropical communities, The 37th symposium of the British Ecological Society. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.
Borchert, R. & Tomlinson, P. B. 1984. Architecture and crown geometry in Tabebuia rosea (Bignoniaceae). Am. J. Bot. 71: 958-969.
Brokaw, N. V. L. 1982. The definition of tree fall gap and its effects on measures of forest dynamics. Biotropica 14: 158-160.
Canham, C. D. 1988. Growth and canopy architecture of shade tolerant trees: response to canopy gaps. Ecology 69: 786-795.
Chazdon, R. L. 1985. Leaf display, canopy structure, and light interception of two understorey palm species. Am. J. Bot. 72: 1493-1502.
Chazdon, R. L. & Fetcher, N. 1984. Light environments of tropical forests. Pp. 27-36. In: Medina, E., Mooney, H. A. & Vàsquez-Yànez, C. (eds), Physiological ecology of plants of the wet tropics. Dr. W. Junk Publishers, The Hague.
Clark, D. A. & Clark, D. B. 1992. Life history diversity of canopy and emergent trees in a Neotropical rain forest. Ecol. Monogr. 62: 315-344.
De Pury, D. G. G. & Farquhar, G. D. 1997. Simple scaling of photosynthesis from leaves to canopies without the errors of big-leaf models. Plant, Cell Env. 20: 537-557.
Drénou, C. 1994. Approche architectural de la scenesence des arbres: le cas de quelques angiospermes temperées et tropicales. PhD thesis, Université de Montpellier II, Montpellier.
Eijkelkamp, B. V. 1991. Data Image Analysis System; a manual. Enschede.
Fisher, J. B. 1986. Branching patterns and angles in trees. Pp. 493-523. In: Givnish, T. J. (ed.), On the economy of plant form and function. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Givnish, T. J. 1984. Leaf and canopy adaptations in tropical forests. Pp. 51-84. In: Medina, E., Mooney, H. A. & Vàsquez-Yànez, C. (eds), Physiological ecology of plants of the wet tropics. Dr. W. Junk Publishers, The Hague.
Hallé, F. & Oldeman, R. A. A. 1970. Essai sur l'architecture et dynamique de croissance des arbres tropicaux. Masson, Paris.
Hallé, F., Oldeman, R. A. A. & Tomlinson, P. B. 1978. Tropical trees and forests: An architectural analysis. Springer Verlag, Berlin.
Horn, H. S. 1971. The adaptive geometry of trees. Princeton University Press, London.
King, D. A. 1991. Correlations between biomass allocation, relative growth rate and light environment in tropical forest saplings. Funct. Ecol. 5: 485-92.
King, D. A. 1994. Influence of light level on the growth and morphology of saplings in a Panamanian forest. Am. J. Bot. 81: 948-957.
King, D. A., Leigh JR, E. G. Condit, R., Foster, R. B. & Hubbell, S. P. 1997. Relationships between branch spacing, growth rate and light in tropical forest saplings. Funct. Ecol. 11: 627-635.
Kohyama, T. & Hotta, M. 1990. Significance of allometry in tropical saplings. Functional Ecology 4: 515-521.
Leopold, L. B. 1971. Trees and streams: the efficiency of branching patterns. Journal of Theoretical Biology 31: 339-354.
Norman, J.M. 1993. Scaling processes between leaf and canopy levels. In: J. R. Ehleringer & C. B. Field (eds), Scaling physiological processes: leaf to globe. Academic Press, London.
Oldeman, R. A. A. 1974. Architecture de la forêt guyanaise O.R.S.T.O.M.,Mémoire 73, Paris.
Oldeman, R. A. A. 1989. Biological implications of Leguminous tree architecture. Pp. 17-34. In: Stirton, C. H. & Zarucchi, J. L. (eds), Advances in Legume biology. Monographs in Systematic Botany of Missouri Botanical Garden 29. Missouri.
Pearcy, R. W. & Yang, W. 1996. A three-dimensional crown architecture model for assessment of light capture and carbon gain by understory plants. Oecologia 108: 1-12.
Poorter, L. 1998. Seedling growth of Bolivian rain forest tree species in relation to light and water availability. PhD Thesis, Utrecht University, Utrecht.
Popma, J. & Bongers, F. 1988. The effect of canopy gaps on growth and morphology of seedlings of rain forest species. Oecologia 75: 625-632.
Room, P. M., Maillette, L. & Hanan, J. S. 1994. Modular and metamer dynamics and virtual plants. Adv. Ecol. Res. 25: 105-157.
Sabatier, D. & Prévost, M. R. 1989. Quelques donneés sur la composition floristique et la diversité des peuplements forestiers de Guyana française. Revue Bois et Forêt des Tropiques 219: 31-55.
Schulz, J. P. 1960. Ecological Studies on Rain Forest in Northern Suriname. Mededelingen Botanisch Museum en Herbarium, R.U.U., No. 163, Noord-Hollandsche Uitgevers Maatschappij, Amsterdam.
Shukla, R. P. & Ramakrishnan, P. S. 1984. Leaf dynamics of tropical trees related to successional status. New Phytol. 97: 697-706.
Sterck, F. J. 1997. Trees and Light: tree development and morphology in relation to light availability in a tropical rain forest in French Guiana. PhD Thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, Ponser and Looijen, Wageningen.
Sterck, F. J., Clark, D. B., Clark, D. A. & Bongers, F. 1999. Light fluctuations, crown traits, and response delays for tree saplings in a Costa Rican lowland rain forest. J. Tropical Ecol. 15.
Terashima, I. & Hikosaka, K. 1995. Comparative ecophysiology of leaf and canopy photosynthesis. Plant, Cell Env. 18: 111-1128.
Ter Steege, H. T. 1992. PPFDCALC; anMS-DOS program to calculate Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density PPFD, Leaf Area Index and Red Farred Ratio RFR from hemispherical photographs. Internal Report Tropenbos Programme, Ede.
Van der Meer, P. J. 1996. Vegetation development in canopy gaps in a tropical rain forest in French Guiana. Selbyana 18 (1): 38-50.
White, J. 1979. The plant as a metapopulation. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 10: 109-145.
Williams, K., Field, C. B. & Mooney, H. A. 1989. Relationships among leaf construction costs, leaf longevity, and light environment in rain-forest plants of the genus Piper. Am. Nat. 133 (2): 198-211.
Veneklaas, E. J. & Poorter, L. 1998. Growth and carbon patitioning of tropical tree seedlings in contrasting light environments. In: Lambers, H., Poorter, H., van Vuren, M. M. I. (eds), Inherent variation in plant growth. Physiological mechanisms and ecological consequences. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden.
About this article
Cite this article
Sterck, F.J. Crown development in tropical rain forest trees in gaps and understorey. Plant Ecology 143, 89–98 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009889414418
- Dicorynia guianensis
- French Guiana
- light intensity
- organisational level
- Vouacapoua americana