1 Individuals of many woody plant species have the ability to respond to da
mage which causes removal of the crown by producing new branches (sprouts)
along the remaining stem. Resprouting by woody plants has received little a
ttention in relatively undisturbed tropical forest.
2 To assess the importance of resprouting for forest dynamics, we estimated
resprouting rates and mortality rates of resprouted individuals for the fo
rest as a whole and for individual species in a 50-ha permanent plot in tro
pical moist forest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. We tested for differen
ces between species and asked whether the differences were related to phylo
geny, growth form or shade tolerance.
3 Among individuals not known to have resprouted previously, we estimate th
at the annual rate of resprouting is 1.7% for individuals in both small and
large size classes (1-9.9 cm d.b.h. and greater than or equal to 10 cm d.b
.h.). For small and large individuals, respectively, annual mortality of pr
eviously undamaged individuals is 2.2% and 1.5%, while that of resprouted i
ndividuals is 9.6% and 10.3%. This resulted in survival of 62% of resproute
d individuals over 5 years, compared to 90% survival among individuals not
known to have resprouted recently.
4 Resprouting rates varied by species and family, but little between growth
forms. Species in the families Lauraceae and Piperaceae had high rates of
resprouting. Resprouting was common across the spectrum of shade tolerance.
5 Damage to woody forest plants on Barro Colorado Island is frequent, and m
any species are able to respond by resprouting. Resprouting ability may be
an important life history characteristic of woody species on BCI, with indi
viduals experiencing both increases and decreases in size.