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Questions: Are there interspecific differences in mortality and recruitment rates across life stages between two shade-tolerant dominant trees in a sub-alpine old-growth forest? Do such differences in demography contribute to the coexistence and co-dominance of the two species? Location: Sub-alpine, old-growth forest on Mt. Ontake, central Honshu, Japan. Methods: From 1980 to 2005, we recorded DBH and status (alive or dead) of all Abies mariesii and A. veitchii individuals (DBH ≥ 5 cm) in a 0.44-ha plot. Based on this 25 year census, we quantified mortality and recruitment rates of the two species in three life stages (small tree, 5 cm ≤ DBH < 10 cm; subcanopy tree, 10 cm ≤ DBH < 20 cm; canopy tree, DBH ≥ 20 cm). Results: Significant interspecific differences in mortality and recruitment rates were observed in both the small tree and sub-canopy tree stages. In this forest, saplings (< 5 cm DBH) are mostly buried by snow-pack during winter. As a consequence, saplings of A. mariesii, which is snow and shade tolerant, show higher rates of recruitment into the small tree stage than do those of A. veitchii. Above the snow-pack, trees must tolerate dry, cold temperatures. A. veitchii, which can more readily endure such climate conditions, showed lower mortality rate at the subcanopy stage and a higher recruitment rate into the canopy tree stage. This differential mortality and recruitment among life-stages determines relative dominance of the two species in the canopy. Conclusion: Differential growth conditions along a vertical gradient in this old forest determine survival of the two species prior to reaching the canopy, and consequently allow co-dominance at the canopy stage.
The Journal of Vegetation Science publishes original articles, short notes and review articles in the field of vegetation science, both methodological and theoretical studies, and descriptive and experimental studies of plant communities and plant populations. The Journal is the Official Organ of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS).