One foundational assumption of trait-based ecology is that traits can predict species demography. However, the links between traits and demographic rates are, in general, not as strong as expected. These weak associations may be due to the use of traits that are distantly related to performance, and/or the lack of consideration of size-related variations in both traits and demographic rates. Here, we examined how wood traits were related to demographic rates in 19 tree species from a lowland forest in eastern Amazonia. We measured 11 wood traits (i.e. structural, anatomical and chemical traits) in sapling, juvenile and adult wood; and related them to growth and mortality rates (MR) at different ontogenetic stages. The links between wood traits and demographic rates changed during tree development. At the sapling stage, relative growth rates (RGR) were negatively related to wood specific gravity (WSG) and total parenchyma fractions, while MR decreased with radial parenchyma fractions, but increased with vessel lumen area (VA). Juvenile RGR were unrelated to wood traits, whereas juvenile MR were negatively related to WSG and axial parenchyma fractions. At the adult stage, RGR scaled with VA and wood potassium concentrations. Adult MR were not predicted by any trait. Overall, the strength of the trait-demography associations decreased at later ontogenetic stages. Our results indicate that the associations between traits and demographic rates can change as trees age. Also, wood chemical or anatomical traits may be better predictors of growth and MR than WSG. Our findings are important to expand our knowledge on tree life-history variations and community dynamics in tropical forests, by broadening our understanding on the links between wood traits and demography during tree development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science