Biomechanical and ecological significance of height

Height is recognized universally as a major plant trait, giving most benefit to the plant in terms of access to light, and therefore makes up part of a plant's ecological strategy [3]. Nevertheless, as pointed out by Westoby et al. [3], different elements should be separated from an ecological point of view: the rate of height growth associated to light foraging, the asymptotic height, and the capacity to persist at a given height. Moreover, investment in height includes several trade-offs and adaptive elements. The question of the coexistence of species at a wide range of heights has been studied in a mathematical framework using game theory [38]. Whether maximal asymptotic height is constrained by physical limitations, e.g., mechanical support or hydraulics, or only by the biological competition for light, i.e., height growth stops when it ceases to offer a competitive advantage, is still an open question [39]. Hydraulic limitations of tree height have been discussed [39-41]. Although some kind of trade-off may be involved between these different functions, we discuss only the biomechanical aspects of the question.

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