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Inter-annual higher germination from smaller than medium-sized premontane wet forest fragments for an animal-dispersed tree species in Costa Rica

Abstract

Forest fragmentation is pervasive in tropical landscapes, and animal-dispersed tree species are among the most threatened. Seed source is an important factor for active conservation and restoration efforts for such species but many studies show lower germination levels for seeds collected from small fragments compared to larger forests. However, the increasing rarity of large forests makes them difficult to be used as practical seed sources. We assessed the potential of small to medium-sized fragments (19–209 ha) to serve as seed sources for the conservation and restoration of an animal-dispersed tree Lacistema aggregatum (Lacistemataceae) in Costa Rican premontane wet forests. Germination, seedling survivorship, and growth for 2 years were quantified in a screen house environment. Two years later, more rigorous germination tests were conducted. Germination levels differed substantially among source trees. Seeds from some individuals had no germination inter-annually, suggesting that fecundity alone may be an incomplete indicator of individual fitness. Furthermore, in contrast to many previous studies, germination was better for seeds from smaller fragments for both study years. Subsequent seedling survivorship did not counteract the trends generated by germination, and the better performance of seeds from smaller fragments was retained for 2 years as ex situ seedlings. Higher seed quality in smaller fragments was associated with larger seed size in trees near forest edges, which might result from higher potential outcrossing rates. Our results suggest a previously unrecognized potential of small fragments as seed sources.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the staff of LCBS, particularly R. Quirós for logistical help, F. Oviedo for species information, and V. Milla, W. Lopez, and M. Sarmiento for GIS assistance; E. Ilama and H. Ford-Hodges for field assistance in 2009; G. Alcock, Cedeño family, Cole family, W. Gonzales, J. Richardson, and R. Zahawi for permissions to conduct research in their forests, and Miniestro de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones (MINAET) for permissions to conduct research in Costa Rica; R. Lankau and C. Park for statistical assistance; and J. Hamrick, R. Shefferson, S. Chang, S. Dewalt, L. Prevost, C. Graham, B. Emilio, and anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Funding for this study was provided to A.S. by the Nakajima Foundation, OTS Research Fellowship (Christiane and Christopher Tyson Fellowship), OTS-National Science Foundation Las Cruces Restoration Workshop Graduate Research Grant, University of Georgia Department of Plant Biology, Explorers Club Exploration Fund, Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid of Research, University of Georgia Graduate School through the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute, and Exposition Foundation, Inc.

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Correspondence to Anna Sugiyama.

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Sugiyama, A., Peterson, C.J. Inter-annual higher germination from smaller than medium-sized premontane wet forest fragments for an animal-dispersed tree species in Costa Rica. Plant Ecol 214, 115–125 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-012-0150-1

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Keywords

  • Early mortality
  • Ex situ germination
  • Forest fragment size
  • Fruit size
  • Maternal effect
  • Seed source