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Data from "Tradeoffs between Height Growth Rate, Stem Persistence and Maximum Height among Plant Species in a Post-Fire Succession"


  • This file was generated using the script found here.
  • These data were made available 8 years after publication of the article. While I have endeavoured to check the details of the archive, there may be some small differences to the published paper due to the time delay between publishing and data release.


citation: Falster, D. S., and M. Westoby. 'Tradeoffs between Height Growth Rate, Stem Persistence and Maximum Height among Plant Species in a Post-Fire Succession.' Oikos 111, no. 1 (2005): 57–66.

doi: 10.1111/j.0030-1299.2005.13383.x

abstract: One way species of low maximum height can accrue sufficient light income to persist in vegetation is via rapid height growth immediately following disturbance. By surveying patches of known time since fire, we reconstructed height-growth trajectories for 19 post-fire recruiting species from fire-prone vegetation in south-eastern Australia. Cross-species patterns of height growth were compared to several plant traits thought to influence height strategy, including leaf mass per area, stem tissue density, stem diameter and capacity to resprout. Shorter species were found to temporarily outpace taller species, both as resprouters and within reseeders. Among reseeders, a single axis of variation summarised patterns of height-growth, time to onset of reproduction and longevity. This axis was tightly correlated with maximum height, leaf mass per area and stem diameter at a given height. These results illustrate how a range of height strategies can coexist in fire-prone vegetation, via the time-process initiated by disturbance.


This dataset is released to the public under the Creative Commons CC0 license. As such, it may be freely used and redistributed. When using the dataset, we ask that you cite the original article, recognising the hard work that went into collecting the data and the author's willingness to make it publicly available.



name: Daniel Falster

email: daniel.falster@mq.edu.au

phone: +61-2-9850-9258

organization: Macquarie University

address: Biological Sciences

city: Macquarie University

state: NSW

postalCode: 2109

country: Australia



name: Mark Westoby

email: mark.westoby@mq.edu.au

phone: +61-2-9850-8196

organization: Macquarie University

address: Biological Sciences

city: Macquarie University

state: NSW

postalCode: 2109

country: Australia



Sampling was conducted during 2002-2003.


The study was conducted in low-open sclerophyll forest situated in Myall Lakes National Park in south eastern Australia. Annual precipitation is moderate (1352 mm, 105 year average), with some rain in all months. Mean annual temperature is 178C. The park contains a diversity of vegetation structural types delimited by substrate variation arising from past and present dune formation. We restricted our study to a large section of the park situated on a relatively homogeneous substrate of freely draining Holocene sands. Fire is a recurrent disturbance in the park. Patches of vegetation 1, 2, 4, 8, 10, 12, 15, 27 and 28 years since fire were identified and plants within were sampled to reconstruct species height-growth trajectories over time. Where possible several patches within a given age class were surveyed to determine species presence or absence.

Species selection

Nineteen species recorded in a majority of patches were selected for further study. This included eight resprouting species and 11 obligate seeders.

Species traits

For each species, we recorded height and diameter at 10% of height for the five tallest individuals found in each patch and age class. The presence of reproductive material on each individual was also noted. Initial surveys were conducted between 20th September and 10th October 2002. The three youngest sites were resampled in March 2003 to give additional intervals of 'time since fire'. Samples were collected for measurement of leaf, stem and architectural traits.

File descriptions

Below is a list of the various files provided for this dataset, and the variables within each.


contents: Appendix 1 from published paper, containing mean values for each of the trait measured. This data is available here http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0030-1299.2005.13383.x in pdf format, but has been reproduced here in a more useful format.

metadata: appendix1-species_means-metadata.csv

variable type units description methods
species string species name
spp string 6 letter species code used in data files
group string group: reseeder or resprouter
family string family
hmax numeric m maximum height Calculated from asymptotic height-growth relationships of the form H=Hmax*(1-exp(-aTb), where T is time since disturbance (age), fitted to each species using Levenberg-Marquardt estimation in SPSS version 11.0.
height_age_a numeric parameter of height-age relationship used to calculate Hmax see methods for hmax
height_age_b numeric parameter of height-age relationship used to calculate Hmax see methods for hmax
height_age_r2 numeric r2 of height-age relationship used to calculate Hmax see methods for hmax
longevity numeric yr maximum longevity for species taken from literature
persistence numeric yr stem persistence
RST_h numeric m Reproductive size threshold Estimated from survey data as by fitting a size-dependent probability of reproduction P=exp(c+dln H)/exp(1+exp(c+dln H)), where ln H is the natural logarithm of plant height and c, d are constants. Parameters were estimated for each species using a maximum likelihood approach, including the presence / absence of reproductive material on individuals of height H as a binary dependent. The reproductive size threshold (RST), corresponding to the point at which most individuals initiate reproduction, was then estimated as exp([ln ((d-1)/(d+1))-c]/d
RST_c numeric parameter used to calculate RST see methods for RST
RST_d numeric parameter used to calculate RST see methods for RST
LMA numeric mm2 mg-1 leaf mass per area calculated on the first five fully expanded leaves (including petioles) at the tip of each individual. Leaf area was calculated as the one sided leaf area (flat bed scanner), and LMA as the leaf dry mass (oven-dried for 48 h at 658C) divided by leaf area
Nmass numeric % leaf nitrogen content Leaves from all individuals per species were then pooled and finely ground for nitrogen analysis. Total nitrogen concentration (%) was measured using complete combustion gas chromatography by Waite Analytical Services, Adelaide.
LS numeric mm2 leaf size size of entire all leaflets for species with compound leaves
STD numeric mg mm-3 stem tissue density Stem tissue density (dry mass / fresh volume) was calculated using 40 -60 mm stem segments taken 250 mm back along a branch from the tip. Fresh samples were refrigerated before processing. After removing bark material, the volume of each sample was determined using Archimedes‰Ûª principle. Samples were submerged in a water-filled container on a balance. The weight change (mg) recorded during submersion corresponds to the mass of water displaced, which can be converted to a volume using the formula: displacement weight (mg)/0.998 (mg mm-3), where 0.998 mg mm-3 is the density of water at 20degC. Samples were then dried for 4 days at 60degC before weighing.
D1m numeric mm stem diameter for plant at 1m height The diameter of a plant at 1m height was estimated for each species by fitting an asymptotic function of form H=Hmax*(1-exp(-aDb) to observed height-diameter trajectories and solving for H=1m.
SM numeric mg seed mass Mean oven dried seed mass was estimated for as many species as possible using field material supplemented with additional data from a global seed mass database, compiled and maintained by Angela Moles


contents: Details on the site used

metadata: site_list-metadata.csv

variable type units description
site string site code used in survey datafile
fire_date date date of last fire, estimated with the use of NSW national parks GIS fire history records and personal observations of Karen Ross
latitude numeric decimal degrees Estimated later using google maps. Approximately correct but not exactly.
longitude numeric decimal degrees Estimated later using google maps. Approximately correct but not exactly.
location numeric verbal description on how to find site
notes string extra notes about the site


contents: Survey of largest individuals for each species in each patch, given height, diameter, and presence of reproductive material. This data was used to fit height growth trajectories and to estimate reproductive size threshold.

metadata: survey_data-metadata.csv

variable type units description
spp string species code
growth string resp=resprout; seed = seedling recruitment type
site string site name
indiv numeric individual number
flow string evidence of flowering: yes or no
heigth_cm numeric cm height of plant
diam_mm numeric mm diameter at 10% of height
collector string collected by
collection_date date date of data collection
notes string notes
sampled bool was individual cut for trait and biomass estimates?
date_last_fire date date of last fire at this site
age_yr numeric yr estimated age = collection date - date of last fire


contents: Inidividual-level measuremnts of leaf traits

metadata: leaf-metadata.csv

variable type units description
site string site
spp string species
indiv numeric individual
leaf_type string leaf type: simple or compound
no_leaves numeric number number of leaves sampled
total_mass numeric gr total mass of leaves
total_area numeric mm2 total area of leaves
leaf_size numeric mm2 average area per leaf, = total_area / no_leaves
lma_leaf numeric mg mm-2 leaf mass per area for entire leaf = 1000*total_mass/total_area
rachis_mass numeric gr mass of rachis (zero for simple leaves)
rachis_area numeric mm2 projected area of rachis (zero for simple leaves)
no_leaflets numeric number total number of leaflets sampled
leaflet_size numeric mm2 average area per leaflet, = (total_area - rachis_area)/ no_leaflets
lma_leaflet numeric mg/mm2 leaf mass per area for leaflet = 1000*(total_mass-rachis_mass)/(total_area-rachis_area)


contents: Inidividual-level measuremnts of wood traits

metadata: wood-metadata.csv

variable type units description notes
site string
spp string 6 letter species code see species list for translation
indiv numeric number individual values 1-3 are were taken from individuals where biomass of terminal meter of stem was also harvested (see biomass dataset), while 'x' is used for additional individuals
segment string location of sample. Samples were taken 250mm & 1000mm from tip of a leading branch; and also at base of plant with a small core.
length numeric mm length of sample
displacement_mass_stem numeric g displacement mass of whole stem segment when submerged in water
dry_mass_stem numeric g dry mass of whole stem segment
denisty_stem numeric g cm-3 stem tissue density
dry_mass_bark numeric g dry mass of bark
displacement_mass_wood numeric g displacement mass of wood (stem with bark removed) when submerged in water
dry_mass_wood numeric g dry mass of wood (stem with bark removed)
denisty_wood numeric g cm-3 wood density
notes string notes


contents: Measuremnts of seed weight used to caluclate seed mass per species

metadata: seed-metadata.csv

variable type units description notes
species string species name names do not always match those in paper due to taxonomic revisions
family string family
site string site
seed mass numeric mg seed dry mass
source string source: either field or literature source where relevant