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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Nov 2;101(44):15661-3. Epub 2004 Oct 25.

Growth and hydraulic (not mechanical) constraints govern the scaling of tree height and mass.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The size-dependent variations of plant height L and mass M with respect to basal stem diameter D are important to the analysis of a broad range of ecological and evolutionary phenomena. Prior examination of some of the world's largest trees suggests that the scaling relationships L alpha D(2/3) and M alpha D(8/3) hold true, ostensibly as functional adaptations for mechanical stability. This concept remains engrained in the literature in the form of null hypotheses (or predictive models), despite numerous examples showing that the 2/3 and 8/3 rules are violated by small and intermediate-sized plants. Here, we present a growth-hydraulic model that provides more accurate and biologically realistic predictions of L and M. This model also sheds light on why L, D, and M scale differently across species and habitats as a result of differences in absolute size.

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