Date of this Version
Science (July 7, 2006) 313: 98-101.
Most ecological hypotheses about species coexistence hinge on species differences, but quantifying trait differences across species in diverse communities is often unfeasible. We examined the variation of demographic traits using a global tropical forest data set covering 4,500 species in 10 large-scale tree inventories. With a hierarchical Bayesian approach, we quantified the distribution of mortality and growth rates of all tree species at each site. This allowed us to test the prediction that demographic differences facilitate species richness, as suggested by the theory that a tradeoff between high growth and high survival allows species to coexist. Contrary to the prediction, the most diverse forests had the least demographic variation. Although demographic differences may foster coexistence, they do not explain any of the 16-fold variation in tree species richness observed across the tropics.