, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 101-110
Date: 25 Jan 2013

Fruiting and flushing phenology in Asian tropical and temperate forests: implications for primate ecology

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In order to understand the ecological adaptations of primates to survive in temperate forests, we need to know the general patterns of plant phenology in temperate and tropical forests. Comparative analyses have been employed to investigate general trends in the seasonality and abundance of fruit and young leaves in tropical and temperate forests. Previous studies have shown that (1) fruit fall biomass in temperate forest is lower than in tropical forest, (2) non-fleshy species, in particular acorns, comprise the majority of the fruit biomass in temperate forest, (3) the duration of the fruiting season is shorter in temperate forest, and (4) the fruiting peak occurs in autumn in most temperate forests. Through our comparative analyses of the fruiting and flushing phenology between Asian temperate and tropical forests, we revealed that (1) fruiting is more annually periodic (the pattern in one year is similar to that seen in the next year) in temperate forest in terms of the number of fruiting species or trees, (2) there is no consistent difference in interannual variations in fruiting between temperate and tropical forests, although some oak-dominated temperate forests exhibit extremely large interannual variations in fruiting, (3) the timing of the flushing peak is predictable (in spring and early summer), and (4) the duration of the flushing season is shorter. The flushing season in temperate forests (17–28 % of that in tropical forests) was quite limited, even compared to the fruiting season (68 %). These results imply that temperate primates need to survive a long period of scarcity of young leaves and fruits, but the timing is predictable. Therefore, a dependence on low-quality foods, such as mature leaves, buds, bark, and lichens, would be indispensable for temperate primates. Due to the high predictability of the timing of fruiting and flushing in temperate forests, fat accumulation during the fruit-abundant period and fat metabolization during the subsequent fruit-scarce period can be an effective strategy to survive the lean period (winter).