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Seeds and seedlings of two neotropical montane understory shrubs respond differently to anthropogenic edges and treefall gaps

Abstract

Edges resulting from forest clear-cutting and treefall gaps can affect plant populations and consequently the distribution of species across landscapes. These two types of disturbance might interact to exacerbate or ameliorate “edge effects”, a rarely tested possibility. We focused on the effects of distance from forest edge (0–10, 30–40, 60–70, and 190–200 m) and habitat within forest fragments (treefall gaps and intact forest) on the early stages of development of Palicourea gibbosa and Faramea affinis, two common shrubs of montane forests in southwest Colombia. Seed germination and seedling growth did not change with distance from forest edge. Within forest fragments, however, seed germination and seedling growth were higher in treefall gaps than in intact forest understory for both species. In contrast, seed predation was influenced by distance from forest edge and in P gibbosa it depended on habitat. Seed predation was highest in the forest interior (190–200 m from forest edge) and in P. gibbosa this was true only in treefall gap habitats. These results suggest that animal mediated processes such as post-dispersal seed predation are more likely than physiological processes to be affected by anthropogenic edges. Our results provide some evidence that treefall gaps may interact with “edge effects”, however, they are inconclusive as to whether they exacerbate or ameliorate them.

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Received: 31 August 1998 / Accepted: 18 February 1999

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Restrepo, C., Vargas, A. Seeds and seedlings of two neotropical montane understory shrubs respond differently to anthropogenic edges and treefall gaps. Oecologia 119, 419–426 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004420050803

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  • Key words Anthropogenic edges
  • Treefall gaps
  • Seed germination
  • Seed predation
  • Seedling growth