Uprooting and snapping of trees: structural determinants and ecological consequences

  • Putz F
  • Coley P
  • Lu K
 et al. 
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The influence of mechanical and architectural properties of trees on growth rates, mortality rates, and relative probabilities of snapping and uprooting were examined on Barro Colorado Island, Republic of Panama. Of 310 fallen trees, 70% snapped, 25% uprooted, and 5% broke off at ground level. Stepwise discriminant analysis between snapped and uprooted trees indicated that of the variables measured, wood properties were the most important factors determining the type of death in trees. Uprooted trees tended to be larger, shorter for a given stem diameter, and to have denser, stiffer, and stronger wood than snapped trees. There were no significant differences between trees that snapped and trees that uprooted in the extent of buttress development or in the slope of the ground upon which they grew. Trees with low density wood grew faster in stem diameter than those with high density wood but also suffered higher mortality rates. After damage, many of the snapped trees sprouted; small trees sprouted more frequently than large trees. Sprouting is proposed as a means by which weak-wooded fast-growing trees partially compensate for being prone to snapping.

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  • Francis E. Putz

  • Phyllis D. Coley

  • Karen Lu

  • Arlee Montalvo

  • Annette Aiello

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