Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 September 2011
We performed a pot experiment in which 540 seedlings of nine non-pioneer light-demanding tree species were grown for 12 months in shade houses at three light levels, 46% daylight, 13% daylight and 2% daylight, to examine the mechanisms contributing to the coexistence of seedlings of non-pioneer light-demanding tree species in secondary successional tropical rain forest in Hainan, China. Growth and survival of tree seedlings were compared at different light levels, and the morphological and physiological correlates of high-light seedling growth and low-light survival across species were determined. For all species, mortality was very low in the 46% daylight and 13% daylight treatment but increased significantly in the 2% daylight treatment. Seedling survival in 2% daylight treatment was positively related to seed mass. Trade-off between high-light growth and low-light survival was more evident in the relationship with 2% daylight treatment as compared with 13% daylight treatment. Relative growth rate in the 2% daylight treatment was not significantly related to relative growth rate in the 13% daylight or 46% daylight treatment; although a slight negative correlation was apparent. Interspecific variation in RGRm was only closely correlated with net assimilation rate (NAR). The results provide some support for the niche-partitioning hypothesis.