Reaching for the Sky

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Science  22 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5525, pp. 2219
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5525.2219d

Surprisingly few quantitative data have been garnered on the rate at which tropical forest trees reach the upper canopy of the forest. Such information is critical for understanding forest dynamics and for describing the patterns of regeneration of different tree species. Clark and Clark measured height increments over a 16-year period in nine tree species in lowland rain forest at La Selva, Costa Rica. Among shade-tolerant species growing under the forest canopy, they find that the path to the canopy is by no means straightforward. Height growth potential increases with increasing sapling size. Average height increments are typically much less than the maxima, and individuals frequently encounter setbacks en route to the canopy, often decreasing in height as a result of damage or dieback. Their data suggest that, to reach even halfway to the canopy, a tree might need as long as 35 to 85 years. — AMS

Ecology82, 1460 (2001).

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