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Keywords:

  • Forest dynamics;
  • persistence;
  • recruitment;
  • regeneration

1. We expect tree species that regenerate primarily by sprouting to produce fewer seedlings than co-occurring species that regenerate mainly from seedlings, because of the trade-off between allocating resources either to ensuring vegetative reproduction (e.g. protective bark/latent buds) or to sexual reproduction (e.g. seeds).

2. Furthermore, resprouting species, because of their multi-stemmed nature, should be at a relative disadvantage, and therefore relatively infrequent, in tall forests. This is because a resprouting individual allocates resources to a number of basal branches/stems and buds rather than maximizing vertical extension of a single leader, as is the case in a seeder. Also, many tall stems arising from the same multi-stemmed base, as is the case in resprouters, will be relatively poorly supported in comparison to the single stem of a reseeder.

3. To test these two ideas we surveyed a number of plots in a range of South African forests and thicket communities. We noted the numbers of seedlings and resprouts for each species and determined a mean for each site.

4. Short forests and thickets were dominated by multi-stemmed species and there was an almost total absence of seedlings. In contrast, tall forests were dominated by single-stemmed reseeding species and were accompanied by seedlings.