Regeneration niches and functional traits of three common species in subtropical dune forest

Richard Gunton, L J Boyes, Megan E Griffiths, Michael Lawes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    South African coastal dune forests are young, highly disturbed subtropical communities where conventional models of forest dynamics may be challenged. We tested predictions from the gap-phase regeneration model by comparing seedlings of three common species representing contrasting regeneration strategies: Acacia karroo as a ruderal, Celtis africana as a coloniser of forest gaps, and Diospyros natalensis as a late-successional species. We grew seedlings under contrasting light and nitrogen levels in a greenhouse and in the field for 1 year to compare their growth and survival rates, allocation and photosynthetic traits. Species' growth rates generally followed the expected order: Acacia>Celtis>Diospyros, but Acacia responded strongly to light and Celtis responded strongly to nitrogen, leading to cross-overs in growth rates. The plasticity of allocation and photosynthesis did not clearly differentiate the strategies, although it was greater in the light-demanding species. Acacia and Celtis tended to survive better in Acacia stands than in forest plots. Leaf-level light compensation points (LCPs) were similar for the three species in most conditions, but auxiliary data suggest Diospyros has a lower whole-plant LCP than Acacia. Growth rates and LCPs were lower than most of those reported for primary-forest species in the literature, suggesting an unusual degree of shade-tolerance in this habitat. We discuss reasons why variation in shade-tolerance may be less important here than in the prevailing model for forest regeneration and suggest other biotic factors that may help differentiate regeneration niches. � 2010.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1490-1497
    Number of pages8
    JournalForest Ecology and Management
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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