Root suckering promotes recruitment in two temperate rainforest trees with shade tolerance
The regeneration niche differentiation helps to explain plant coexistence and thus biodiversity. The study of the regeneration niche has been traditionally based on sexual recruitment, while overlooking clonal growth. Root suckering offers a successful alternative for local dispersal under suboptimal conditions for sexual reproduction. For light-limited forests, we hypothesized that: 1) root suckering would increase the regeneration niche towards high-light conditions in shade-tolerant trees and towards dark conditions in light-demanding species; 2) contrasting responses of survival and growth to light availability would explain niche differentiation of both suckers and saplings; and 3) distinct responsiveness to light among species and recruit-types would reflect differences in functional traits. We tested these hypotheses with two evergreen tree species that coexist in the temperate rainforest of southern South America: Embothrium coccineum (light-demanding) and Eucryphia cordifolia (shadetolerant). We measured the light availability in two study plots above each recruit and along transects established in the understory. Niche selection, niche differentiation and changes in survival probability with light were inferred from the analysis of the light frequency distributions. We evaluated the effect of light on the relative volumetric change in stems over a 1-year period. Functional traits of leaves, stems, and crowns were measured in suckers and saplings growing under similar light conditions; these traits were then compared among size classes, recruit-types and species. Root suckering was the prevalent reproduction mode of both studied species, extending the light niche towards open microenvironments only during the earliest ontogenetic stages. The poor structural strength of the leaves and wood of small Eucryphia saplings explains its underuse of open microsites. Neither photosynthetic assimilation nor carbon subsidy can sustain Embothrium suckers at the shadiest microsites. Suckering proved to increase the persistence of Embothrium until advanced stages of forest succession, facilitating its coexistence with the late-successional Eucryphia. Our study emphasizes that clonal growth is essential to understand the dynamics of temperate rainforests.
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|Root suckering promotes recruitment in two temperate rainforest trees with shade tolerance
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|PERSPECTIVES IN PLANT ECOLOGY EVOLUTION AND SYSTEMATICS
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