Roles of seed and establishment limitation in determining patterns of afrotropical tree recruitment.

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Quantifying the relative importance of the multiple processes that limit recruitment may hold the key to understanding tropical tree diversity. Here we couple theoretical models with a large-scale, multi-species seed-sowing experiment to assess the degree to which seed and establishment limitation shape patterns of tropical tree seedling recruitment in a central African forest. Of five randomly selected species (Pancovia laurentii, Staudtia kamerunensis, Manilkara mabokeensis, Myrianthus arboreas, and Entandophragma utile), seedling establishment and survival were low (means of 16% and 6% at 3 and 24 months, respectively), and seedling density increased with seed augmentation. Seedling recruitment was best explained by species identity and the interaction of site-by-species, suggesting recruitment probabilities vary among species and sites, and supporting the role of niche-based mechanisms. Although seed augmentation enhanced initial seedling density, environmental filtering and post-establishment mortality strongly limited seedling recruitment. The relative importance of seed and establishment limitation changed with seed and seedling density and through time. The arrival of seeds most strongly affected local recruitment when seeds were nearly absent from a site (∼ 1 seed m(2)), but was also important when seeds arrived in extremely high densities, overwhelming niche-based mortality factors. The strength of seed limitation and density-independent mortality decreased significantly over time, while density-dependent mortality showed the opposite trend. The varying strengths of seed and establishment limitation as a function of juvenile density and time emphasize the need to evaluate their roles through later stages of a tree's life cycle.





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Clark, Connie J, John R Poulsen and Doug J Levey (2013). Roles of seed and establishment limitation in determining patterns of afrotropical tree recruitment. PloS one, 8(5). p. e63330. 10.1371/journal.pone.0063330 Retrieved from

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John Poulsen

Associate Professor of Tropical Ecology

John Poulsen is an ecologist with broad interests in the maintenance and regeneration of tropical forests and conservation of biodiversity. His research has focused on the effects of anthropogenic disturbance, such as logging and hunting, on forest structure and diversity, abundance of tropical animals, and ecological processes. He has conducted most of his research in Central Africa, where he has also worked as a conservation manager, directing projects to sustainably manage natural resources in and around parks and reserves, and as the coordinator of government programs to develop low emissions strategies and quantify and monitor forest carbon.

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