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Oecologia

, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 625–632 | Cite as

Effects of herbivory and patch size on tree seedling survivorship in a fog-dependent coastal rainforest in semiarid Chile

  • Ek del-ValEmail author
  • Juan J. Armesto
  • Olga Barbosa
  • Pablo A. Marquet
Plant Animal Interactios

Abstract

The landscape (matrix) surrounding habitat fragments critically affects the biodiversity of those fragments due to biotic interchange and physical effects. However, to date, there have been only a limited number of studies on plant–animal interactions in fragmented landscapes, particularly on how tree seedling herbivory is affected by fragmentation. We have examined this question in a fog-dependent mosaic of rainforest fragments located on coastal mountaintops of semiarid Chile (30°S), where the effects of the surrounding semiarid matrix and forest patch size (0.1–22 ha) on tree seedling survival were simultaneously addressed. The rainforest is strongly dominated by the endemic evergreen tree species Aextoxicon punctatum (Olivillo, approx. 80% of basal area). To assess the magnitudes and causes of Olivillo seedling mortality, we set up a field experiment where 512 tree seedlings of known age were transplanted into four forest fragments of different sizes in four 1.5 × 3-m plots per patch; one-half of each plot was fenced off with chicken wire to exclude small mammals. The plots were monitored for 22 months. Overall, 50% of the plants died during the experiment. The exclusion of small mammals from the plots increased seedling survival by 25%, with the effect being greater in smaller patches where matrix-dwelling herbivores are more abundant. This experiment highlights the important role of the surrounding matrix in affecting the persistence of trees in forest fragments. Because herbivores from the matrix cause greater tree seedling mortality in small patches, their effects must be taken into account in forest conservation–restoration plans.

Keywords

Habitat fragmentation Plant–animal interactions Tree regeneration Water limitation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF, IV Región, Chile) kindly gave permission to work at Fray Jorge National Park. We thank J. Monardes, N. Davies, V. Matus, B. González, A. Gutiérrez and P. Chacón for assistance in the field and F. Matus, J. Larco and C. Tejo for the laboratory work. We especially thank C. Garín and Y. Hussein for small mammal trapping. Pablo Necochea kindly drew the Fray Jorge map. We thank K. Boege, J. Benítez-Malvido and two anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions. This work was supported by FONDAP–FONDECYT 1501-0001 (CASEB), Biocores Project funded by EC under INCO IV programme (Contract ICA 4-CT-2001–10095), CMEB (PO2-051-F), ICM (P05-002) and Project P02-051-F ICM (IEB). O. Barbosa thanks the A. Mellon foundation for a doctoral fellowship. Part of this work was conducted while PAM was a Sabbatical Fellow at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant no. DEB-0072909), the University of California and the Santa Barbara campus. The experiments performed for this investigation comply with the current laws of Chile.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ek del-Val
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Juan J. Armesto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Olga Barbosa
    • 1
    • 5
  • Pablo A. Marquet
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity (CASEB), Departamento de Ecología, Facultad Ciencias BiológicasPontificia Universidad Católica de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB)Facultad de Ciencias Universidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  3. 3.National Center for Ecological Analysis and SynthesisSanta BarbaraUSA
  4. 4.Centro de Investigaciones en EcosistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMexico
  5. 5.BIOMEUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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