Factors Affecting Postdispersal Seed Survival in a Tropical Forest

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Using the subcanopy tree Faramea occidentalis in Panama, I studied post-dispersal seed survival as a function of five characteristics describing seed locations. By simultaneously considering distance from a conspecific adult, size of the nearest conspecific adult, leaf litter quantity, proximity to logs or tree trunks, and whether or not the seed was in a gap, I was able to analyze the influences of individual factors, as well as the interactions among factors. Seed survival was significantly less in treefall gaps than in the forest understory. Seed survival was also influenced by the size of the nearest adult but in a complex interaction with distance to an adult. For seeds beneath adults, survival decreased with increasing tree size, while for seeds away from adults, survival was independent of the size of the nearest conspecific adult. Distance did not directly affect seed survival, nor did the quantity of leaf litter or the proximity to a tree trunk or a log. In a separate analysis, the relationship between distance and seed survival was consistent over four years, suggesting that single cohort studies may provide accurate insights into the consequences of dispersal. In contrast, the spatial locations of surviving seeds were not consistent over the four-year period. Transects with high survival one year did not tend to have high survival in other years, and the locations of surviving seeds in any particular year could not be predicted from the knowledge of where seeds survived in other years. While survival is patchy within a year, the locations of patches shift from year to year.

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