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Seed and Seedling Ecology of a Monocarpic Tropical Tree, Tachigalia Versicolor

Kaoru Kitajima and Carol K. Augspurger
Ecology
Vol. 70, No. 4 (Aug., 1989), pp. 1102-1114
DOI: 10.2307/1941379
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1941379
Page Count: 13
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Seed and Seedling Ecology of a Monocarpic Tropical Tree, Tachigalia Versicolor
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Abstract

Tachigalia versicolor is a monocarpic canopy tree species on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, This 2-yr demographic and physiological study examined whether seed and seedling survival of this monocarpic species is high compared to nonmonocarpic species previously studied, as life history theory predicts. For the weighted average of two trees, the percentage of offspring estimated to survive from dispersed seed to germination, 1 yr, and 2 yr was 30, 7.2, and 4.3%, respectively. The large seeds (500-600 mg) suffered greater mortality in absolute numbers than did the seedlings. Major mortality agents of seeds were bruchid beetles (Amblycerus tachygaliae) and terrestrial vertebrates, while vertebrate herbivores and damping-off fungi killed seedlings. Seedlings survival and growth were enhanced under canopies of dying T. versicolor adults, relative to under canopies of living conspecific and nonconspecific adults. The majority of 2-yr-old seedlings occurred within 0.40 m from the parent trees, reflecting the original peak of the distribution of wind-dispersed seeds. Few seedlings persisted beyond 40 m. Seedling survival in the first 2 mo was higher in shaded understory than in light-gaps, due to higher vertebrate herbivory in sun than shade. Seedling growth and survival beyond 2 mo was higher in light-gaps than in shaded understory. T. versicolor seedlings exhibited a wide range in maximum net photosynthetic rate when grown in contrasting light conditions, and were able to acclimate to a sudden increase in light level by means of morphological and physiological adjustments of newly developed leaves. These results indicate that T. versicolor can utilize a wide range of light environments in the forest during seedling establishment. Relative to nomonocarpic wind-dispersed tree species previously studied in the same community. T. versicolor ranks near the top in its seed mass, dispersal capability, photosynthetic flexibility to contrasting light conditions, and probability of seedling survival in the shaded understory through 1 yr. These characteristics enable T. versicolor to establish large numbers of seedlings. The mean total number of offspring of two trees estimated to survive through 2 yr was 4395 out of 103 055 dispersed seeds and 30 529 germinated seeds. In comparison to nonmonocarpic species, juvenile survival of T. versicolor is high as expected for this monocarpic tree species.

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