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Determinants of change in subtropical tree diameter growth with ontogenetic stage

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We evaluated the degree to which relative growth rate (RGR) of saplings and large trees is related to seven functional traits that describe physiological behavior and soil environmental factors related to topography and fertility for 57 subtropical tree species in Dinghushan, China. The mean values of functional traits and soil environmental factors for each species that were related to RGR varied with ontogenetic stage. Sapling RGR showed greater relationships with functional traits than large-tree RGR, whereas large-tree RGR was more associated with soil environment than was sapling RGR. The strongest single predictors of RGR were wood density for saplings and slope aspect for large trees. The stepwise regression model for large trees accounted for a larger proportion of variability (R 2 = 0.95) in RGR than the model for saplings (R 2 = 0.55). Functional diversity analysis revealed that the process of habitat filtering likely contributes to the substantial changes in regulation of RGR as communities transition from saplings to large trees.

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We thank Prof. Bai-lian Li for establishing collaborations between the University of California Riverside and the South China Botanical Garden; numerous individuals in South China Botanical Garden who contributed to the field survey of Dinghushan plot; and the Santiago Lab for comments that improved the manuscript. The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31370446, 31100312), the Knowledge Innovation Project of The Chinese Academy of Sciences (KSCX2-EW-Z), the Foreign Exchange Program National Founder (31011120470), the Chinese Forest Biodiversity Monitoring Network and the China Scholarship Council.

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Correspondence to Wanhui Ye.

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Communicated by Ylo Niinemets.

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Shen, Y., Santiago, L.S., Shen, H. et al. Determinants of change in subtropical tree diameter growth with ontogenetic stage. Oecologia 175, 1315–1324 (2014).

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  • Relative growth rate
  • Soil nutrient availability
  • Specific leaf area
  • Topography
  • Wood density