, Volume 161, Issue 4, pp 771–780 | Cite as

Direct and indirect effects of understorey bamboo shape tree regeneration niches in a mixed temperate forest

  • Fernando D. Caccia
  • Enrique J. Chaneton
  • Thomas Kitzberger
Community ecology - Original paper


Plant cover plays a major role in shaping the nature of recruitment microsites through direct (resource mediated) and indirect (consumer mediated) interactions. Understorey plants may differentially affect seedling establishment, thus contributing to regeneration-niche separation among canopy tree species. We examined patterns of early tree seedling survival resulting from interactive effects of understorey bamboo (Chusquea culeou) and resident consumers in a mixed temperate Patagonian forest, Argentina. Newly germinated seedlings of Nothofagus dombeyi and Austrocedrus chilensis were planted in bamboo thickets and non-bamboo patches, with or without small-vertebrate exclosures. We found species-specific patterns of seedling survival in relation to bamboo cover. Nothofagus survival was generally low but increased under bamboo, irrespective of cage treatment. Desiccation stress accounted for most Nothofagus mortality in open, non-bamboo areas. In contrast, Austrocedrus survival was highest in non-bamboo microsites, as most seedlings beneath bamboo were killed by small vertebrates through direct consumption or non-trophic physical damage. There was little evidence for a negative impact of bamboo on tree seedling survival attributable to resource competition. The balance of simultaneous positive and negative interactions implied that bamboo presence facilitated Nothofagus early establishment but inhibited Austrocedrus recruitment via apparent competition. These results illustrate the potential for dominant understorey plants to promote microsite segregation during early stages of recruitment between tree seedlings having different susceptibilities to water stress and herbivory. We recognise, however, that patterns of bamboo–seedling interactions may be conditional on moisture levels and consumer activity during establishment. Hence, both biotic and abiotic heterogeneity in understorey environments should be incorporated into conceptual models of regeneration dynamics and tree coexistence in forest communities.


Apparent competition Facilitation Patagonia Recruitment Seedling predation 



We thank the Administración de Parques Nacionales for supporting our research at Nahuel-Huapi National Park. Three reviewers provided several constructive suggestions that helped to improve the manuscript. The study was funded by grants from the Universidad de Buenos Aires (G-407) and the British Ecological Society (SEPG Nº 2029). The reported experiment complied with Argentinean laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fernando D. Caccia
    • 1
  • Enrique J. Chaneton
    • 2
  • Thomas Kitzberger
    • 3
  1. 1.Departamento de Producción Vegetal, Facultad de AgronomíaUniversidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.IFEVA-CONICET, Facultad de AgronomíaUniversidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.INIBIOMA-CONICETLaboratorio Ecotono and Universidad Nacional del ComahueBarilocheArgentina

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