The effect of patch demography on the community structure of forest trees

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The effect of patch demography on the structure of forest tree communities was examined using a patch-age and tree-size structured model of forest dynamics. Changes in abundance of species of different types (four different maximum tree-size classes each in two or three shade-tolerance classes) were numerically modeled in response to changes in the duration of the gap-formation-free lag phase. Average patch mortality was identical in all simulations. Tolerant species were more abundant without a lag phase due to larger variation in patch longevity, while subtolerant or intolerant species were successful when patch longevity was fixed with a long duration of lag phase. Variation in patch-age distribution facilitated species coexistence. Increasing ‘advance regeneration’, or surviving fraction at gap formation, brought about the exclusive dominance of the tolerant species. Results suggest that patch demography plays a significant role in the community organization of forest trees. In species-rich systems like tropical rain forests, longevity or canopy duration of large trees can differ among species, which brings about the variation in patch longevity, thus promoting further coexistence of species.

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