Consistency of demographic trade-offs across 13 (sub)tropical forests

Stephan Kambach, Richard Condit, Salomón Aguilar, Helge Bruelheide, Sarayudh Bunyavejchewin, Chia Hao Chang-Yang, Yu Yun Chen, George Chuyong, Stuart J. Davies, Sisira Ediriweera, Corneille E.N. Ewango, Edwino S. Fernando, Nimal Gunatilleke, Savitri Gunatilleke, Stephen P. Hubbell, Akira Itoh, David Kenfack, Somboon Kiratiprayoon, Yi Ching Lin, Jean Remy MakanaMohizah Bt Mohamad, Nantachai Pongpattananurak, Rolando Pérez, Lillian Jennifer V. Rodriguez, I. Fang Sun, Sylvester Tan, Duncan Thomas, Jill Thompson, Maria Uriarte, Renato Valencia, Christian Wirth, S. Joseph Wright, Shu Hui Wu, Takuo Yamakura, Tze Leong Yao, Jess Zimmerman, Nadja Rüger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Organisms of all species must balance their allocation to growth, survival and recruitment. Among tree species, evolution has resulted in different life-history strategies for partitioning resources to these key demographic processes. Life-history strategies in tropical forests have often been shown to align along a trade-off between fast growth and high survival, that is, the well-known fast–slow continuum. In addition, an orthogonal trade-off has been proposed between tall stature—resulting from fast growth and high survival—and recruitment success, that is, a stature−recruitment trade-off. However, it is not clear whether these two independent dimensions of life-history variation structure tropical forests worldwide. We used data from 13 large-scale and long-term tropical forest monitoring plots in three continents to explore the principal trade-offs in annual growth, survival and recruitment as well as tree stature. These forests included relatively undisturbed forests as well as typhoon-disturbed forests. Life-history variation in 12 forests was structured by two orthogonal trade-offs, the growth−survival trade-off and the stature−recruitment trade-off. Pairwise Procrustes analysis revealed a high similarity of demographic relationships among forests. The small deviations were related to differences between African and Asian plots. Synthesis. The fast–slow continuum and tree stature are two independent dimensions structuring many, but not all tropical tree communities. Our discovery of the consistency of demographic trade-offs and life-history strategies across different forest types from three continents substantially improves our ability to predict tropical forest dynamics worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1485-1496
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 30 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.


  • ForestGeo
  • PCA
  • demographic rates
  • demographic trade-offs
  • growth
  • life-history strategies
  • mortality
  • recruitment
  • size
  • stature
  • survival
  • tropical forests


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