Indexed on: 20 Oct '15Published on: 20 Oct '15Published in: Ecology and Evolution
Successful growth of a tree is the result of combined effects of biotic and abiotic factors. It is important to understand how biotic and abiotic factors affect changes in forest structure and dynamics under environmental fluctuations. In this study, we explored the effects of initial size [diameter at breast height (DBH)], neighborhood competition, and site condition on tree growth, based on a 3-year monitoring of tree growth rate in a permanent plot (120 × 80 m) of montane mixed forest on Mt. Shennongjia, China. We measured DBH increments every 6 months from October 2011 to October 2014 by field-made dendrometers and calculated the mean annual growth rate over the 3 years for each individual tree. We also measured and calculated twelve soil properties and five topographic variables for 384 grids of 5 × 5 m. We defined two distance-dependent neighborhood competition indices with and without considerations of phylogenetic relatedness between trees and tested for significant differences in growth rates among functional groups. On average, trees in this mixed montane forest grew 0.07 cm year in DBH. Deciduous, canopy, and early-successional species grew faster than evergreen, small-statured, and late-successional species, respectively. Growth rates increased with initial DBH, but were not significantly related to neighborhood competition and site condition for overall trees. Phylogenetic relatedness between trees did not influence the neighborhood competition. Different factors were found to influence tree growth rates of different functional groups: Initial DBH was the dominant factor for all tree groups; neighborhood competition within 5 m radius decreased growth rates of evergreen trees; and site condition tended to be more related to growth rates of fast-growing trees (deciduous, canopy, pioneer, and early-successional species) than the slow-growing trees (evergreen, understory, and late-successional species).