iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Growth, morphology, and biomass allocation of recently planted seedlings of seven European tree species along a light gradient

Ieva Bebre (1)   , Peter Annighöfer (2), Christian Ammer (1), Dominik Seidel (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 13, Issue 4, Pages 261-269 (2020)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor3370-013
Published: Jul 03, 2020 - Copyright © 2020 SISEF

Research Articles

Light is one of the most critical factors controlling tree survival and growth. Limited light availability induces phenotypic plasticity, thus enabling plants to adapt to suboptimal conditions. The plastic responses are species-specific and are thought to largely depend on species’ shade tolerance. This study aims to add to existing research by trying to disentangle the effects of light, species identity, and shade tolerance on growth, biomass partitioning, and morphology of seedlings of seven common European tree species. For that purpose, we set up a shading experiment where seedlings were grown under three levels of light availability (15%, 35%, and 100%). A destructive harvest was carried out for the assessment of biomass allocation and structural complexity of plant architecture after a year of exposure to limited light. The specific leaf area increased with decreasing light availability for all species. However, we found little to no changes in relative height and diameter growth, biomass allocation to aboveground tree compartments, and structural complexity along the light gradient. We argue that because trees were grown under open field conditions, both in the nursery and for the first year of the experiment, it might have resulted in a delayed response to limited light availability. Assuming the delayed reaction of less plastic plant organs, we expect that the morphological adaptations of the tree species and intra- and interspecific differences will become more pronounced, as the trees grow older.


Shade Tolerance, Plant Morphology, Fractal Analysis, Biomass Allocation, Specific Leaf Area, Light

Authors’ address

Ieva Bebre
Christian Ammer 0000-0002-4235-0135
Dominik Seidel 0000-0003-4131-9424
Department of Silviculture and Forest Ecology of the Temperate Zones, Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Büsgenweg 1, 37077 Göttingen (Germany)
Peter Annighöfer 0000-0001-8126-5307
Forest and Agroforest Systems, Technical University of Munich (TUM), Hans-Carl-von-Carlowitz-Platz 2, 85354 Freising (Germany)

Corresponding author


Bebre I, Annighöfer P, Ammer C, Seidel D (2020). Growth, morphology, and biomass allocation of recently planted seedlings of seven European tree species along a light gradient. iForest 13: 261-269. - doi: 10.3832/ifor3370-013

Academic Editor

Claudia Cocozza

Paper history

Received: Feb 07, 2020
Accepted: May 05, 2020

First online: Jul 03, 2020
Publication Date: Aug 31, 2020
Publication Time: 1.97 months

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