, Volume 149, Issue 1, pp 51-62

Seed arrival under different genera of trees in a neotropical pasture

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Trees in pastures attract seed dispersers, leading to increased seed arrival under their canopies and more rapid regrowth around them. The characteristics that make some trees better `recruitment foci' than others, however, are poorly understood. In a neotropical pasture, we examined the arrival of seeds to open areas and underneath four genera of trees that varied in canopy architecture and type of fruit produced: Ficus trees had dense canopies and fleshy fruits, Pentaclethra trees had dense canopies and dry fruits, Cecropia trees had sparse canopies and fleshy fruits, and Cordia trees had sparse canopies and dry fruits. We found that all trees received more seeds than open pasture, probably because trees provided seed dispersers with better perches, protection from predators, nesting sites, etc. Among the tree genera, more seeds arrived under trees that produced fleshy fruits than trees that did not. This occured even during periods when trees were not fruiting (i.e., non-fruiting Ficus and Cecropia trees received more seeds than Cordia or Pentaclethra trees). Seed dispersers may periodically check Ficus and Cecropia trees for fruits, or they may become familiar with these trees while feeding and thereafter use them for other reasons. Height of trees had a slight positive effect on seed arrival, possibly because taller trees offered more protection from predators. Canopy architecture and distance to forest edge did not significantly affect seed arrival. This study demonstrates that trees in general are potentially important recruitment foci, but that different types of trees vary in the kind of recruitment that they foster in pastures.