, Volume 212, Issue 12, pp 1991-2001
Date: 20 Oct 2011

Costs of resprouting are traded off against reproduction in subtropical coastal dune forest trees

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Abstract

Resprouting can be an important means of regeneration for forest tree species resulting in multi-stemmed architecture, especially at less productive or frequently disturbed sites. However, the cost of resprouting may be traded off against growth or reproduction. In subtropical coastal forest in South Africa, trees grow on steep, sandy dunes with unstable soils and low to moderate nutrient availability. These coastal forests experience seasonally strong anticyclonic winds from August through October. We examined the hypothesis that basal resprouting resulting in multiple stems causes lower rates of sexual reproduction and recruitment by individuals. We examined whether trees traded off resprouting against seed output, seed size, seedling abundance and recruitment by seedlings. Species were designated as good and poor resprouters based on their frequency of multi-stemmed individuals at Cape Vidal. Good resprouters had more stems, produced less seed and had lower seed mass than poor resprouters, and had lower seedling abundance and fewer individuals in small diameter classes than large diameter classes. Seedling abundance in good resprouters was not influenced by the availability of understorey gaps. Good resprouters were most abundant on dune crests and seaward slopes that were exposed to sea winds. Persistence of established individuals by producing multiple stems from basal resprouts is important where a chronic disturbance regime potentially reduces the survivorship of single-stemmed individuals and thereby their opportunities for reproduction. Good resprouters appear to trade-off recruitment of new individuals for multiple stems that increase the persistence of established ones against disturbance. We conclude that multi-stemming arising from basal resprouts has evolved to promote individual persistence under low to moderate intensity but pervasive wind stress.