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


Journal Article

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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Clark, CJ; Poulsen, JR; Levey, DJ

Published Date

  • January 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 5

Start / End Page

  • e63330 -

PubMed ID

  • 23691023

Pubmed Central ID

  • 23691023

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0063330


  • eng