It has been maintained that selection for sapling performance in the strongly limiting light conditions of tropical forest understorey is likely to maximise whole-plant light capture efficiency.
In their investigation of a suite of morphological traits at various hierarchical scales, Laurans et al. found no evidence to support this hypothesis among and within 14 tree species within the region of French Guiana.The shallow crown of shade-intolerant species in shade is shown to result from a slow crown vertical growth and not from a shortened leaf lifespan, which would be a sign of self-shading or of an adaptive strategy of nutrient recycling.
Marilyne Laurans, Gregoire Vincent, 2016, 'Are inter- and intraspecific variations of sapling crown traits consistent with a strategy promoting light capture in tropical moist forest?', Annals of Botany, vol. 118, no. 5, pp. 983-996 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcw140