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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2014, Article ID 649031, 9 pages
Research Article

Functional Trait Trade-Offs for the Tropical Montane Rain Forest Species Responding to Light from Simulating Experiments

1Key Laboratory of Coastal Zone Environmental Processes, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Yantai, Shandong 264003, China
2Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Environment, The State Forestry Administration, Research Institute of Forest Ecology, Environment and Protection, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091, China
3Institute of Life Sciences, Qingdao University of Science & Technology, Qingdao 266042, China

Received 15 May 2014; Accepted 24 May 2014; Published 11 June 2014

Academic Editor: Marian Brestic

Copyright © 2014 Peili Mao et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Differences among tropical tree species in survival and growth to light play a key role in plant competition and community composition. Two canopy species with contrasting functional traits dominating early and late successional stages, respectively, in a tropical montane rain forest of Hainan Island, China, were selected in a pot experiment under 4 levels of light intensity (full, 50%, 30%, and 10%) in order to explore the adaptive strategies of tropical trees to light conditions. Under each light intensity level, the pioneer species, Endospermum chinense (Euphorbiaceae), had higher relative growth rate (RGR), stem mass ratio (SMR), specific leaf area (SLA), and morphological plasticity while the shade tolerant climax species, Parakmeria lotungensis (Magnoliaceae), had higher root mass ratio (RMR) and leaf mass ratio (LMR). RGR of both species was positively related to SMR and SLA under each light level but was negatively correlated with RMR under lower light (30% and 10% full light). The climax species increased its survival by a conservative resource use strategy through increasing leaf defense and root biomass investment at the expense of growth rate in low light. In contrast, the pioneer increased its growth by an exploitative resource use strategy through increasing leaf photosynthetic capacity and stem biomass investment at the expense of survival under low light. There was a trade-off between growth and survival for species under different light conditions. Our study suggests that tree species in the tropical rainforest adopt different strategies in stands of different successional stages. Species in the earlier successional stages have functional traits more advantageous to grow faster in the high light conditions, whereas species in the late successional stages have traits more favorable to survive in the low light conditions.