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Competition influences tree growth, but not mortality, across environmental gradients in Amazonia and tropical Africa



Oliver L. Phillips

Simon L. Lewis

Kofi Affum-Baffoe


Ana Andrade

Luiz E.O.C.

Alejandro Araujo-Murakami

Timothy R. Baker


Roel J.W. Brienen


James A. Comiskey

Marie Noel K. Djuikouo

Sophie Fauset

Ted R. Feldpausch

Timothy J. Killeen

William F. Laurance

Susan G.W. Laurance

Thomas Lovejoy

Yadvinder Malhi

Beatriz S. Marimon

Ben-Hur Marimon

Andrew R. Marshall

David A. Neill


Nigel C.A. Pitman

Lourens Poorter

Jan Reitsma

Marcos Silveira


Terry Sunderland

Hermann Taedoumg

Hans ter Steege

John W. Terborgh

Ricardo K. Umetsu

Emilio Vilanova

Vincent Vos

Lee J.T. White

Simon Willcock

Lise Zemagho

Mark C. Vanderwel


© 2020 The Authors. Ecology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Ecological Society of America Competition among trees is an important driver of community structure and dynamics in tropical forests. Neighboring trees may impact an individual tree’s growth rate and probability of mortality, but large-scale geographic and environmental variation in these competitive effects has yet to be evaluated across the tropical forest biome. We quantified effects of competition on tree-level basal area growth and mortality for trees ≥10-cm diameter across 151 ~1-ha plots in mature tropical forests in Amazonia and tropical Africa by developing nonlinear models that accounted for wood density, tree size, and neighborhood crowding. Using these models, we assessed how water availability (i.e., climatic water deficit) and soil fertility influenced the predicted plot-level strength of competition (i.e., the extent to which growth is reduced, or mortality is increased, by competition across all individual trees). On both continents, tree basal area growth decreased with wood density and increased with tree size. Growth decreased with neighborhood crowding, which suggests that competition is important. Tree mortality decreased with wood density and generally increased with tree size, but was apparently unaffected by neighborhood crowding. Across plots, variation in the plot-level strength of competition was most strongly related to plot basal area (i.e., the sum of the basal area of all trees in a plot), with greater reductions in growth occurring in forests with high basal area, but in Amazonia, the strength of competition also varied with plot-level wood density. In Amazonia, the strength of competition increased with water availability because of the greater basal area of wetter forests, but was only weakly related to soil fertility. In Africa, competition was weakly related to soil fertility and invariant across the shorter water availability gradient. Overall, our results suggest that competition influences the structure and dynamics of tropical forests primarily through effects on individual tree growth rather than mortality and that the strength of competition largely depends on environment-mediated variation in basal area.


Rozendaal, D. M., Phillips, O. L., Lewis, S. L., Affum-Baffoe, K., Alvarez Dávila, E., Andrade, A., …Vanderwel, M. C. (2020). Competition influences tree growth, but not mortality, across environmental gradients in Amazonia and tropical Africa. Ecology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 24, 2020
Online Publication Date Apr 2, 2020
Publication Date Apr 2, 2020
Deposit Date May 1, 2020
Publicly Available Date May 1, 2020
Journal Ecology
Print ISSN 0012-9658
Electronic ISSN 1939-9170
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Public URL
Publisher URL


Competition influences tree growth, but not mortality, across environmental gradients in Amazonia and tropical Africa (1.6 Mb)

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