Relationships between dispersal syndrome and characteristics of populations of trees in a mixed-species forest

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Abstract

The null hypothesis that dispersal syndrome is not related to characteristics of forest tree populations was explored using a 4.5 ha mapped plot in a subtropical mixed-species forest in northern Florida, USA. Dispersal syndrome was not related to physiognomy, abundance, or spatial dispersion of tree species. Of the common trees, small individuals of three species that produced the largest-sized propagules, (Carya spp., Quercus michauxii, Q. nigra) were positively associated with localized gaps within the forest. Patterns to the distribution of juveniles of these species suggest that propagules are not differentially dispersed to gaps. In addition, slow growth of these species, even in gaps, precludes growth into the understory stratum prior to gap closure. Instead, juveniles die back and resprout repeatedly prior to entry into the understory in localized gaps. Likelihoods that juveniles will enter the understory are very low and require fortuitous sequential releases from suppression. The dispersal syndrome, in which propagules are distributed over the forest floor at low uniform densities as a result of scatterhoarding by mammals, especially squirrels, appears essential for these species to be co-dominants in this forest.