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Higher survival drives the success of nitrogen-fixing trees through succession in Costa Rican rainforests
Menge, D N L
Chazdon, Robin L
Trees capable of symbiotic nitrogen (N) fixation ('N fixers') are abundant in many tropical forests. In temperate forests, it is well known that N fixers specialize in early-successional niches, but in tropical forests, successional trends of N-fixing species are poorly understood. We used a long-term census study (1997-2013) of regenerating lowland wet tropical forests in Costa Rica to document successional patterns of N fixers vs non-fixers, and used an individual-based model to determine the demographic drivers of these trends. N fixers increased in relative basal area during succession. In the youngest forests, N fixers grew 2.5 times faster, recruited at a similar rate and were 15 times less likely to die as non-fixers. As succession proceeded, the growth and survival disparities decreased, whereas N fixer recruitment decreased relative to non-fixers. According to our individual-based model, high survival was the dominant driver of the increase in basal area of N fixers. Our data suggest that N fixers are successful throughout secondary succession in tropical rainforests of north-east Costa Rica, and that attempts to understand this success should focus on tree survival. © 2016 New Phytologist Trust.
New Phytologist / Vol. 209, No. 3, pp.965-977
Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
FoR 06 (Biological Sciences)
FoR 07 (Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences)
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