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Title: The importance of tree size and fecundity for wind dispersal of big-leaf mahogany

Author: Norghauer, Julian M.; Nock, Charles A.; Grogan, James.;

Date: 2011

Source: PLoS ONE. 6(3): e17488

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Seed dispersal by wind is a critical yet poorly understood process in tropical forest trees. How tree size and fecundity affect this process at the population level remains largely unknown because of insufficient replication across adults. We measured seed dispersal by the endangered neotropical timber species big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King, Meliaceae) in the Brazilian Amazon at 25 relatively isolated trees using multiple 1-m wide belt transects extended 100 m downwind. Tree diameter and fecundity correlated positively with increased seed shadow extent; but in combination large, high fecundity trees contributed disproportionately to longer-distance dispersal events (.60 m). Among three empirical models fitted to seed density vs. distance in one dimension, the Student-t (2Dt) generally fit best (compared to the negative exponential and inverse power). When seedfall downwind was modelled in two dimensions using a normalised sample, it peaked furthest downwind (c. 25 m) for large, high-fecundity trees; with the inverse Gaussian and Weibull functions providing comparable fits that were slightly better than the lognormal. Although most seeds fell within 30 m of parent trees, relatively few juveniles were found within this distance, resulting in juvenile-to-seed ratios peaking at c. 35–45 m. Using the 2Dt model fits to predict seed densities downwind, coupled with known fecundity data for 2000–2009, we evaluated potential Swietenia regeneration near adults (#30 m dispersal) and beyond 30 m. Mean seed arrival into canopy gaps .30 m downwind was more than 36 greater for large, high fecundity trees than small, high-fecundity trees. Tree seed production did not necessarily scale up proportionately with diameter, and was not consistent across years, and this resulting intraspecific variation can have important consequences for local patterns of dispersal in forests. Our results have important implications for management and conservation of big-leaf mahogany populations, and may apply to other threatened wind-dispersed Meliaceae trees.

Keywords: Swietenia, tropical forests, seed dispersal, management, conservation, Brazil

Publication Notes:

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Norghauer, Julian M.; Nock, Charles A.; Grogan, James. 2011. The importance of tree size and fecundity for wind dispersal of big-leaf mahogany. PLoS ONE. 6(3): e17488


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