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Am Nat. 2001 Feb;157(2):141-53. doi: 10.1086/318629.

Causes and consequences of monodominance in tropical lowland forests.

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Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA.


Tropical canopy dominance in lowland, well-drained forests by one plant species is a long-standing conundrum in tropical biology. Research now shows that dominance is not the result of one trait or mechanism. We suggest that the striking dominance of Gilbertiodendron dewevrei in the Ituri Forest of northeastern Congo is the result of a number of traits in adult trees that significantly modify the understory environment, making it difficult for other species to regenerate there. Adults cast deep shade that reduces light levels in the understory of the Gilbertiodendron forest to levels significantly lower than in the mixed-species forest. Moreover, the monodominant forest has deep leaf litter that could inhibit the establishment of small-seeded species, and the leaf litter is slow to decompose, potentially causing the low availability of nitrogen. We expect that juveniles of Gilbertiodendron may have an advantage in this environment over other species. In general, it appears that all tropical monodominant species share a similar suite of traits.

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