Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Growth rates and age-size relationships of tropical wet forest trees in Costa Rica

Diana Liebermana1, Milton Liebermana1, Gary Hartshorna2 and Rodolfo Peraltaa2

a1 Department of Biology, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks ND 58202, USA

a2 Tropical Science Center, San José, Costa Rica


Diameter growth rates and age-size relationships are reported for 45 abundant tree species and one liana in tropical wet forest at La Selva, Costa Rica. Thirteen-year increments in each species were analysed using growth simulation, a stochastic technique which projects growth trajectories.

Median growth rates ranged from 0.35 mm yr-1 (Anaxagorea crassipetala) to 13.41 mm yr-1) (Stryphnodendron excelsum). Maximum ranges ranged from 0.95 mm yr-1 (Quararibea brac-teolosa) to 14.62 mm yr-1 (Hernandia didymanthera). Minimum rates ranged from zero growth (Capparis pittieri, Colubrina spinosa, Doliocarpus spp.) to 7.45 mm yr-1 (Stryphno dendron excelsum).

Projected lifespan (from 100 mm dbh to the maximum dbh for the species) varied from 52 years (Anaxagorea crassipetala, Guatteria inuncta) to 442 years (Carapa guianensis). The mean longevity among the 45 tree species studied is 190 years.

Four main patterns of growth behaviour are recognized, based upon longevity and growth rates: (1) understorey species have slow maximum growth rates and short lifespans; (2) shade-tolerant subcanopy trees live around twice as long as understorey trees and grow at approxi-mately the same maximum rates; (3) canopy and subcanopy trees that are shade-tolerant but respond opportunistically to increased light levels have long lifespans and fast maximum growth rates; (4) shade-intolerant canopy and subcanopy species are short-lived and have fast maximum growth rates. Understorey species intergrade with shade-tolerant subcanopy species in terms of growth behaviour; shade-tolerant subcanopy species with opportunistic, shade-tolerant species; and opportunistic, shade-tolerant with shade-intolerant species.

Intraspecific variation in growth rates is lower in short-lived trees (understorey species with uniformly slow growth and shade-intolerant species with uniformly rapid growth) than in the two long-lived groups. These patterns are discussed in the context of tree ecophysiology and forest light environments.

(Accepted July 09 1985)