Recruitment limitation of dominant tree species with varying seed masses in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest

Abstract

Recruitment limitation has been hypothesized to promote the maintenance of high species diversity in forests by slowing down competitive exclusion. However, the difference of recruitment limitation for tree species with varying seed masses, which is a common phenomenon in tropical or subtropical forests, is largely unknown. In this study we conducted a seed sowing experiment for five dominant tree species with varying seed mass (a proxy of dispersal ability) in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest at different successional stages to test the hypothesis that the determinants of species recruitment vary with their seed masses in Heishiding Nature Reserve (Guangdong Province, China). The effects of seed predators, soil pathogens, light conditions, plant litter, seed additions, and the presence of adult conspecific trees on the performance of seeds and seedlings for the five species were examined. We particularly investigated the effects of habitat hazards and seed size on the relative importance of dispersal limitation and establishment limitation. The results show that all five sowing species experienced recruitment limitation at the microsite level, although the causes of the limitation of these species varied between pathogen infection, animal predation, litter covering and shading. Seedling recruitment of the wind-dispersed, small-seeded species was mostly limited by microsite condition, while large-seeded species were mostly limited by dispersal ability.

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Correspondence to S. Yu.

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Luo, Y., He, F. & Yu, S. Recruitment limitation of dominant tree species with varying seed masses in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 14, 189–195 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.14.2013.2.9

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Keywords

  • Dispersal limitation
  • Microsite limitation
  • Seed addition
  • Seedling establishment
  • Species coexistence