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Tree shape plasticity in relation to crown exposure

Harja, Degi, Vincent, Grégoire, Mulia, Rachmat, van Noordwijk, Meine
Trees 2012 v.26 no.4 pp. 1275-1285
forest stands, light requirement, tree and stand measurements, trees, Borneo, Indonesia
Trees outside closed forest stands differ in the relation between stem diameter, height and crown volume from trees that grew with neighbours close by. Whether this plasticity in tree shape varies between species in relation to their light requirement is unknown. We purposefully sampled 528 trees ranging 5–100 cm diameter at breast height growing in a range of light conditions. Across ten broad-leaved species observed in Sumatra or Kalimantan, a generic relationship was found between light exposure of the crown and a light-dependent a l parameter that modifies the height–diameter allometric equation (H = a l D b ) from those for closed stands. In our results, vertical stretching is well predicted by light availability. In fully open conditions, trees are on average 31% shorter for the same diameter than under (partial) shade. Most of the stretching response occurs in all species as soon as some degree of lateral shading occurs. The response, however, varies by species (8–44% reduction) in a way apparently unrelated to species’ successional status. Crown volume varied less than stem height in its relationship with stem diameter across all light conditions tested. The scaling of crown volume with stem diameter, however, differed markedly between tree species.