Explaining the high diversity of tree species in tropical forests remains a persistent challenge in ecology. The analysis of spatial patterns of different species and their spatial diversity captures the spatial variation of species behaviors from a ‘plant’s eye view’ of a forest community. To measure scale-dependent species-species interactions and species diversity at neighborhood scales, we applied uni- and bivariate pair correlation functions and individual species area relationships (ISARs) to two fully mapped 2-ha plots of tropical evergreen forests in north-central Vietnam. The results showed that (1) positive conspecific interactions dominated at scales smaller than 30 m in both plots, while weak negative interactions were only observed in P2 at scales larger than 30 m; (2) low numbers of non-neutral interactions between tree species were observed in both study plots. The effect of scale separation by habitat variability on heterospecific association was observed at scales up to 30 m; (3) the dominance of diversity accumulators, the species with more diversity in local neighborhoods than expected by the null model, occurred at small scales, while diversity repellers, the species with less diversity in local neighborhoods, were more frequent on larger scales. Overall, the significant heterospecific interactions revealed by our study were common in highly diverse tropical forests. Conspecific distribution patterns were mainly regulated by topographic variation at local neighborhood scales within 30 m. Moreover, ISARs were also affected by habitat segregation and species diversity patterns occurring at small neighborhood scales. Mixed effects of limited dispersal, functional equivalence, and habitat variability could drive spatial patterns of tree species in this study. For further studies, the effects of topographical variables on tree species associations and their spatial autocorrelations with forest stand properties should be considered for a comprehensive assessment.
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