Skip to main content

Data from: Three decades of annual growth, mortality, physical condition, and microsite for ten tropical rainforest tree species

Cite this dataset

Clark, Deborah A.; Clark, David B.; Letcher, Susan G. (2019). Data from: Three decades of annual growth, mortality, physical condition, and microsite for ten tropical rainforest tree species [Dataset]. Dryad.


In lowland tropical rainforest, hundreds of tree species typically occur within mesoscale landscapes (50-500 ha). There is no consensus ecological theory that accounts for the coexistence of so many species with similar morphologies and the same fundamental requirements of light, nutrients, water, and physical space. In part this is due to the limited understanding of post-establishment ecology for the vast majority of tropical tree species. Of even more concern is the lack of understanding of how these trees are responding to on-going atmospheric and climatic changes. Here we present long-term data on the post-establishment ecology of ten species of tropical rainforest trees that span a broad life-history spectrum. The study site was upland (non-swamp) old-growth tropical wet forest at the La Selva Biological Station (N.E. Costa Rica). Focal individuals from established seedlings to mature trees were assessed annually, with an emphasis on accuracy and long-term consistency of the observations. The annual time-step, rare for longterm studies in tropical rainforest, captures the typically abrupt changes in forest structure and light environments, the frequent instances of major physical damage, and the trees' responses to these events and to interannual and long-term climatic variation. With the completion of the study in 2016, the data for survivorship, growth, and microsite conditions span 4499 individuals and 34 years. The first ten years of these data were published as an Ecology/Ecological Archives data paper in 2000 (Clark and Clark 2000), with two subsequent update publications (Clark and Clark 2006, 2012). This final update adds the final six years of observations, digitized field comments, and histories of points of measurement on the trees. The metadata now include the scanned original field data-sheets for the entire study and a narrative detailing the annual qa/qc of the data. The data set is unique for its scope (years of continuous annual measurements, number of monitored individuals), the in-depth documentation, and the unrestricted data access. The data have been used to study life history patterns, tree ecology through ontogeny, and effects on tree performance from interannual and long-term climatic and atmospheric change. They have also contributed to numerous remote-sensing studies.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: US NSF/LTREB DEB-1147367


Costa Rica