Wood properties and trunk allometry of co-occurring rainforest canopy trees in a cyclone-prone environment

Jennifer Read, Robert Evans, Gordon D Sanson, Stuart Kerr, Tanguy Jaffré

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Premise of study: New Caledonia commonly experiences cyclones, so trees there are expected to have enhanced wood traits and trunk allometry that confer resistance to wind damage. We ask whether there is evidence of a trade-off between these traits and growth rate among species. 

Methods: Wood traits, including density, microfibril angle (MFA), and modulus of elasticity (MOE), ratio of tree height to stem diameter, and growth rate were investigated in mature trees of 15 co-occurring canopy species in a New Caledonian rainforest. 

Key results: In contrast to some studies, wood density did not correlate negatively with growth increment. Among angiosperms, wood density and MOE correlated positively with diameter-adjusted tree height, and MOE correlated positively with stem-diameter growth increment. Tall slender trees achieved high stiffness with high efficiency with respect to wood density, in part by low MFA, and with a higher diameter growth increment but a lower buckling safety factor. However, some tree species of a similar niche differed in whole-tree resistance to wind damage and achieved wood stiffness in different ways. 

Conclusions: There was no evidence of a growth-safety trade-off in these trees. In forests that regularly experience cyclones, there may be stronger selection for high wood density and/or stiffness in fast-growing trees of the upper canopy, with the potential growth trade-off amortized by access to the upper canopy and by other plant traits. Furthermore, decreasing wood density does not necessarily decrease resistance to wind damage, resistance being influenced by other characteristics including cell-level traits (e.g., MFA) and whole-plant architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1762-1772
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Botany
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Cyclones
  • Microfibril angle
  • New Caledonia
  • Rainforest
  • Tree architecture
  • Wood density
  • Wood mechanics
  • Wood stiffness

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