Skip to page content
USDA Forest Service

Research & Development Treesearch

Treesearch Home
About Treesearch
Contact Us
Research & Development
Forest Products Lab
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Pacific Northwest
Pacific Southwest
Rocky Mountain
Southern Research Station
Help - We Participate  Government Made Easy

Global Forest Information Service

US Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C.

(202) 205-8333

You are here: Home / Search / Publication Information
Bookmark and Share

Publication Information

View PDF (888.0 KB bytes)

Title: Competition from below for light and nutrients shifts productivity among tropical species

Author: Ewel, J. J.; Mazzarino, M. J.;

Date: 2008

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105(48): 18836-18841

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)


Chance events such as seed dispersal determine the potential composition of plant communities, but the eventual assemblage is determined in large part by subsequent interactions among species. Postcolonization sorting also affects the ultimate composition of communities assembled by people for restoration, horticulture, or conservation. Thus, knowledge of the mechanisms controlling interspecific interactions in plant communities is important for explaining patterns observed in nature and predicting success or failure of utilitarian combinations. Relationships among species, especially those from studies of biological diversity and ecosystem functioning, are largely based on studies of short-lived, temperate-zone plants. Extrapolation to perennial plants in the humid tropics is risky because functional relationships among large-stature species change with time. Shifts in competitive relationships among 3 life forms--trees, palms, and perennial herbs--occurred during 13 yr in experimental tropical ecosystems. In 2 cases the novel competitive mechanism responsible for the shift was reduction in crown volume, and therefore light-capturing capability, of overtopping deciduous trees by intrusive growth from below a palm. In a third case, complementary resource use developed between 2 evergreen life forms (overstory tree and palm), probably because of differential nutrient acquisition. Species-level traits and adequate time for shifts in interspecific relationships to emerge are crucial for predicting community trajectories.

Keywords: complementarity, diversity, ecosystem functioning, fertile soil, plant competition

Publication Notes:

  • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Ewel, J. J.; Mazzarino, M. J. 2008. Competition from below for light and nutrients shifts productivity among tropical species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105(48): 18836-18841.


 [ Get Acrobat ]  Get the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat reader or Acrobat Reader for Windows with Search and Accessibility

USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.