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      Canopy structure of tropical and sub-tropical rain forests in relation to conifer dominance analysed with a portable LIDAR system

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          Abstract

          Background and Aims

          Globally, conifer dominance is restricted to nutient-poor habitats in colder, drier or waterlogged environments, probably due to competition with angiosperms. Analysis of canopy structure is important for understanding the mechanism of plant coexistence in relation to competition for light. Most conifers are shade intolerant, and often have narrow, deep, conical crowns. In this study it is predicted that conifer-admixed forests have less distinct upper canopies and more undulating canopy surfaces than angiosperm-dominated forests.

          Methods

          By using a ground-based, portable light detection and ranging (LIDAR) system, canopy structure was quantified for old-growth evergreen rainforests with varying dominance of conifers along altitudinal gradients (200–3100 m a.s.l.) on tropical and sub-tropical mountains (Mount Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo and Yakushima Island, Japan) that have different conifer floras.

          Key Results

          Conifers dominated at higher elevations on both mountains (Podocarpaceae and Araucariaceae on Kinabalu and Cupressaceae and Pinaceae on Yakushima), but conifer dominance also varied with soil/substrate conditions on Kinabalu. Conifer dominance was associated with the existence of large-diameter conifers. Forests with higher conifer dominance showed a canopy height profile (CHP) more skewed towards the understorey on both Kinabalu and Yakushima. In contrast, angiosperm-dominated forests had a CHP skewed towards upper canopy, except for lowland dipterocarp forests and a sub-alpine scrub dominated by small-leaved Leptospermum recurvum (Myrtaceae) on Kinabalu. Forests with a less dense upper canopy had more undulating outer canopy surfaces. Mixed conifer–angiosperm forests on Yakushima and dipterocarp forests on Kinabalu showed similar canopy structures.

          Conclusions

          The results generally supported the prediction, suggesting that lower growth of angiosperm trees (except L. recurvum on Kinabalu) in cold and nutrient-poor environments results in a sparser upper canopy, which allows shade-intolerant conifers to co-occur with angiosperm trees either as emergents or as codominants in the open canopy.

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          Most cited references 97

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          Alpine Plant Life

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            The tortoise and the hare: ecology of angiosperm dominance and gymnosperm persistence

             W J Bond (1989)
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              Small-footprint lidar estimation of sub-canopy elevation and tree height in a tropical rain forest landscape

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Ann Bot
                Ann. Bot
                annbot
                annbot
                Annals of Botany
                Oxford University Press
                0305-7364
                1095-8290
                December 2013
                5 November 2013
                5 November 2013
                : 112
                : 9
                : 1899-1909
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima 890-0065, Japan
                [2 ]Graduate School of Environmental Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan
                [3 ]Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan
                Author notes
                [* ]For correspondence. E-mail aiba@ 123456sci.kagoshima-u.ac.jp
                Article
                mct242
                10.1093/aob/mct242
                3838564
                24197751
                © The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Pages: 12
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                1
                1002

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