Phenological diversity in tropical forests
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One of the most intriguing and complex characteristics of reproductive phenology in tropical forests is high diversity within and among forests. To understand such diversity, Newstrom et al. provided a systematic framework for the classification of tropical flowering phenology. They adopted frequency and regularity as criteria with priority, and classified plants in La Selva, Costa Rica, where most plants reproduced more than once a year irregularly. Many other studies have demonstrated annual cycles corresponding to rainfall patterns at the community level in Neotropical forests, including La Selva. On the other hand, supraannual flowering synchronized among various plant species, called general flowering, is known from aseasonal lowland dipterocarp forests in Southeast Asia. Within both forests, a wide spectrum of flowering patterns is found. This range of patterns suggests the great potential of tropical phenological studies to explore the selective pressures on phenology. Various abiotic and biotic factors can be selective agents. The shared pollinators hypothesis suggests that plant species sharing pollinators segregate flowering temporarily to minimize interspecific overlap in flowering times and thus minimize ineffective pollination or competition for pollinators, indicating strong phylogenetic constraints in timing and variation of flowering. Comparison of phenology within and among forests may help our understanding of phenological diversity. Attempts are now being made to develop a common language to communicate concepts and render interpretations of data more compatible among investigators and to create a network to promote comparative studies.
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