We show that tropical forest tree saplings with greater belowground carbon allocation have more breakage scars along their stems. We suggest the existence of alternative carbon allocation strategies in relation to physical damage in the forest understorey. “Tolerators” allocate more belowground, have enhanced resprouting ability and slower aboveground growth, whereas “escapers” allocate less belowground, are not well prepared for recovering from damage, but grow fast enough to escape from the damage-susceptible size class.
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