Long-lived light-demanding emergents in southern temperate forests

the case of Weinmannia trichosperma (Cunoniaceae) in Chile

Christopher H. Lusk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Citations (Scopus)


The prevailing paradigm of tree life histories emphasises strong interrelationships between growth, longevity and reproductive traits, attributing contrasting suites of correlated traits to 'pioneer' and 'climax' or 'non-pioneer' species. In tropical and southern temperate rainforests, although many of the species that require large gaps for regeneration conform to the expectations of small size and short lifespan, a number of others are long-lived canopy or emergent trees. Age data reported here for Weinmannia trichosperma, a shade-intolerant emergent tree in the temperate rainforests of southern Chile, indicate a maximum lifespan (>730 yr) exceeding those previously reported for any other angiosperm of the region. The long lifespan of IV. trichosperma is associated with relatively slow growth, reflecting investment of resources in dense wood and possibly other defensive traits. Growth rates of W. trichosperma are much slower than those of associated short-lived pioneer trees, and apparently also slower than some of its more shade-tolerant associates. The light-demanding nature of many of the longest-lived trees in southern temperate forests highlights an important limitation of the classical pioneer-climax paradigm as a framework for understanding tree life history variation and modelling forest dynamics in this biome. A longevity advantage over Nothofagus spp. may help explain the relative abundance of W. trichosperma in the lower to mid-elevation coast range forests in the Chilean lakes district, where the scarcity or absence of Nothofagus in many stands has been attributed to a low frequency of coarse-scale disturbance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-115
Number of pages5
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Forest dynamics
  • Temperatre rainforest
  • Trade-offs
  • Tree growth rates
  • Tree life histories
  • Tree lifespans

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