The growth of trees and other plants occurs through the interactive combination of photosynthesis and carbon (and other nutrient) assimilation. Photosynthesis enables the production of carbohydrate that can then be used in growing foliage, whereby photosynthesis is enabled. We construct a mathematical model of carbon uptake and storage, which allows the prediction of the growth dynamics of trees. We find that the simplest model allows uncontrolled foliage production through the positive feedback outlined above, but that leaf shading provides an automatic saturation to carbon assimilation, and hence to foliage production. The model explains the necessity for finite leaf area production at outbreak, and it explains why foliage density reaches a constant value during a growing season, while also non-leaf tissue also continues to grow. It also explains why trees will die when their carbon stores are depleted below a certain threshold, because the cost of foliage growth and maintenance exceeds the dynamic supply of carbon by photosynthesis
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