Changes in shoot allometry with increasing tree height in a tropical canopy species, Elateriospermum tapos
Allometry of shoot extension units (hereafter termed “current shoots”) was analyzed in a Malaysian canopy species, Elateriospermum tapos Bl. (Euphorbiaceae). Changes in current shoot allometry with increasing tree height were related to growth and maintenance of tree crowns. Total biomass, biomass allocation ratio of non-photosynthetic to photosynthetic organs, and wood density of current shoots were unrelated to tree height. However, shoot structure changed with tree height. Compared with short trees, tall trees produced current shoots of the same mass but with thicker and shorter stems. Current shoots with thin and long stems enhanced height growth in short trees, whereas in tall trees, thick and short current shoots may reduce mechanical and hydraulic stresses. Furthermore, compared with short trees, tall trees produced current shoots with more leaves of lower dry mass, smaller area, and smaller specific leaf area (SLA). Short trees adapted to low light flux density by reducing mutual shading with large leaves having a large SLA. In contrast, tall trees reduced mutual shading within a shoot by producing more small leaves in distal than in proximal parts of the shoot stem. The production of a large number of small leaves promoted light penetration into the dense crowns of tall trees. All of these characteristics suggest that the change in current shoot structure with increasing tree height is adaptive in E. tapos, enabling short trees to maximize height growth and tall trees to maximize light capture.