Papers in the Biological Sciences



Sabrina E. Russo, University of Nebraska-LincolnFollow
Sean M. McMahon, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DCFollow
Matteo Detto, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DCFollow
Glenn Ledder, University of Nebraska - LincolnFollow
S. Joseph Wright, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DCFollow
Richard S. Condit, Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL
Stuart J. Davies, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DCFollow
Peter S. Ashton, Harvard University
Sarayudh Bunyavejchewin, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Bangkok, ThailandFollow
Chia-Hao Chang-Yang, National Sun Yat-sen UniversityFollow
Sisira Ediriweera, Uva Wellassa University, Badulla, Sri LankaFollow
Corneille E.N. Ewango, University of Kisangani, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Christine Fletcher, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia
Robin B. Foster, The Field Museum, Chicago, IL
C.V. Savi Gunatilleke, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
I.A.U. Nimal Gunatilleke, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
Terese Hart, Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Chang-Fu Hseih, National Taiwan University, TaipeiFollow
Stephen P. Hubbell, University of California, Los AngelesFollow
Akira Itoh, Osaka City University, Osaka, JapanFollow
Abdul Rahman Kassim, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia
Yao Tze Leong, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Selangor, MalaysiaFollow
Yi Ching Lin, Tunghai University, Taichung, TaiwanFollow
Jean-Remy Makana, University of Kisangani, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of CongoFollow
Mohizah Bt. Mohamad, Forest Department Sarawak, Bangunan Wisma Sumber Alam, Kuching, Malaysia
Perry Ong, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City
Anna Sugiyama, University of Hawai‘i at MānoaFollow
I-Fang Sun, National Dong Hwa University, Hualian, TaiwanFollow
Sylvester Tan, Lambir Hills National Park, Miri, Malaysia
Jill Thompson, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, UKFollow
Takuo Yamakura, Osaka City University, Osaka, Japan
Sandra L. Yap, Far Eastern University, Manila, PhilippinesFollow
Jess K. Zimmerman, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, PRFollow

Date of this Version



Russo, S.E., McMahon, S.M., Detto, M. et al. The interspecific growth–mortality trade-off is not a general framework for tropical forest community structure. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 174–183 (2021).


Copyright © 2020 Sabrina E. Russo et al. Published by Springer Nature Limited. Used by permission.


Resource allocation within trees is a zero-sum game. Unavoidable trade-offs dictate that allocation to growth-promoting functions curtails other functions, generating a gradient of investment in growth versus survival along which tree species align, known as the interspecific growth–mortality trade-off. This paradigm is widely accepted but not well established. Using demographic data for 1,111 tree species across ten tropical forests, we tested the generality of the growth–mortality trade-off and evaluated its underlying drivers using two species-specific parameters describing resource allocation strategies: tolerance of resource limitation and responsiveness of allocation to resource access. Globally, a canonical growth–mortality trade-off emerged, but the trade-off was strongly observed only in less disturbance-prone forests, which contained diverse resource allocation strategies. Only half of disturbance-prone forests, which lacked tolerant species, exhibited the trade-off. Supported by a theoretical model, our findings raise questions about whether the growth–mortality trade-off is a universally applicable organizing framework for understanding tropical forest community structure.