Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems

Tree growth rates in north Australian savanna habitats: seasonal patterns and correlations with leaf attributes

L. D. Prior, D. Eamus and D. M. J. S. Bowman

Australian Journal of Botany 52(3) 303 - 314
Published: 09 June 2004


We demonstrate a significant relationship between leaf attributes and growth rates of mature trees under natural conditions in northern Australia, a pattern that has not been widely reported before in the literature. Increase in diameter at breast height (DBH) was measured every 3 months for 2 years for 21 tree species from four habitats near Darwin: Eucalyptus open forest, mixed eucalypt woodland, Melaleuca swamp and dry monsoon rainforest. Assimilation rates and foliar chlorophyll, nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were positively correlated with growth rate and negatively correlated with leaf mass per area. For most species, increases in DBH were confined to the wet-season (summer) period between November and May. Average annual increases in DBH were larger in the dry monsoon rainforest (0.87 cm) and the Melaleuca swamp (0.65 cm) than in the woodland (0.20 cm) and the open forest (0.16 cm), and were larger in non-Myrtaceous species (0.53 cm) than in Myrtaceous species (0.25 cm). These results are discussed in relation to the frequent fire regime prevailing over much of northern Australia which causes the marked contrast between the small pockets of fire-tender closed monsoon rainforest and large expanses of fire-tolerant savanna.

© CSIRO 2004

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