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Disperser Limitation and Recruitment of an Endemic African Tree in a Fragmented Landscape

Norbert J. Cordeiro, Henry J. Ndangalasi, Jay P. McEntee and Henry F. Howe
Ecology
Vol. 90, No. 4 (Apr., 2009), pp. 1030-1041
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25592590
Page Count: 12
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Disperser Limitation and Recruitment of an Endemic African Tree in a Fragmented Landscape
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Abstract

Forest fragmentation may have positive or negative effects on tropical tree populations. Our earlier study of an endemic African tree, Leptonychia usambarensis (Sterculiaceae), in the East Usambara Mountains of Tanzania, found poorer recruitment of seedlings and juveniles in small fragments compared to continuous forest, and concomitant reduction of seed-dispersal agents and seed dispersal. However, the possibility that other biotic or abiotic consequences of the fragmentation process contribute to diminished recruitment in fragments was left open. Here we test whether excessive seed predation, diminished fecundity, low seed quality, or adverse abiotic effects acted independently or in concert with reduced seed dispersal to limit seedling and juvenile recruitment in fragments. Extended observations of disperser activity, a seed placement experiment, seed predator censuses, and reciprocal seedling transplants from forest and fragment sources failed to support the alternative hypotheses for poorer seedling and juvenile recruitment in fragments, leaving reduced seed dispersal as the most plausible mechanism. Poorer recruitment of this species in forest fragments, where high edge-to-area ratios admit more light than in continuous forest, is particularly striking because the tree is an early successional species that might be expected to thrive in disturbed microhabitats.

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