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Am Nat. 2007 Apr;169(4):433-42. Epub 2007 Feb 6.

Are species adapted to their regeneration niche, adult niche, or both?

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  • 1Forest Ecology and Forest Management Group, Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Functional traits are important drivers of successional processes and the assembly of plant communities. It is generally assumed that functional traits are closely linked to the regeneration niche because of the high selection pressures in the seedling stage, but recent studies have challenged this view. In this study, I use cross species and phylogenetic correlation analysis between leaf traits and light environment to evaluate whether species are adapted to the regeneration niche, adult niche, or both. Leaf chemistry, morphology, physiology, and crown exposure were quantified for up to 58 Bolivian tropical moist forest tree species that differ in their regeneration and adult light niche. Multiple regression analysis shows that leaf traits of seedlings, saplings, and trees are most strongly related to the regeneration niche, and once this is taken into account, adult niche does not significantly explain any of the remaining variation in leaf traits. This suggests that, although the regeneration phase is short, it has a long-lasting effect on the form and shape of plant species.

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