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Recruitment dynamics of the grove-dominant tree Microberlinia bisulcata in African rain forest: extending the light response versus adult longevity trade-off concept

An Erratum to this article was published on 29 July 2010

Abstract

In groves of ectomycorrhizal caesalpiniaceous species in the Atlantic coastal forest of Central Africa the dominant tree Microberlinia bisulcata, which is shade-intolerant as a seedling but highly light-responding as a sapling, shows very limited regeneration. M. bisulcata saplings were mapped in an 82.5-ha plot at Korup and found to be located significantly far (>40 m) away from adults, a result confirmed by direct testing in a second 56-ha plot. Sapling growth over 6 years, the distribution of newly emerging seedlings around adults, recruitment of saplings in a large opening and the outward extent of seedlings at the grove edge were also investigated. Two processes appear to have been operating: (1) a very strong and consistent restriction of the very numerous seedlings establishing after masting close to adults, and (2) a strong but highly spatially variable promotion of distant survivors by increased light from the deaths of large trees of species other than M. bisulcata (which itself has very low mortality rate). This leads to an apparent escape-from-adults effect. To maintain saplings in the shade between multiple short periods of release ectomycorrhizal connections to other co-occurring caesalp species may enable a rachet-type mechanism. The recorded sapling dynamics currently contribute an essential part of the long-term cycling of the groves. M. bisulcata is an interesting example of an important group of tropical trees, particularly in Africa, which are both highly light-demanding when young yet capable also of forming very large forest emergents. To more comprehensively explain tropical tree responses, the case is made for adding a new dimension to the trade-off concept of early tree light-response versus adult longevity.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Njibili and C. Okha for field assistance; the Conservator of Korup National Park, A. Kembou, and the Ministries of Forests and Environment (MINEF) and Education, Scientific and Technical Research (MINREST) for permission to undertake the research; and two reviewers for comments. This study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant #3100-066655, 2002–2005 to D.M.N.).

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Correspondence to David M. Newbery.

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An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11258-010-9808-8

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Newbery, D.M., Praz, C.J., van der Burgt, X.M. et al. Recruitment dynamics of the grove-dominant tree Microberlinia bisulcata in African rain forest: extending the light response versus adult longevity trade-off concept. Plant Ecol 206, 151–172 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-009-9631-2

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Keywords

  • Adult-sapling distance
  • Ectomycorrhizal linkage
  • Korup National Park
  • Replacement potential
  • Tree mortality