Forest edges show contrasting effects on an austral mistletoe due to differences in pollination and seed dispersal


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  1. The alteration and transformation of the areas surrounding native forests due to anthropogenic disturbance can result in differences near this newly created boundary, termed ‘edge effects’.
  2. Our study describes the consequences of edge creation over two successive stages in the life cycle of a hemi-parasitic mistletoe (Tristerix corymbosus), which determine its reproductive success, in temperate austral forests.
  3. We assessed how flower production and pollinator visits change with distance to the nearest forest edge and how these changes affect fruit set, fruit and seed size, and fruit removal by seed dispersers.
  4. Edge effects were dominated by fruit removal, which increased with the distance to the edge, height in the canopy and fruit availability. As a result, plant reproduction (in terms of seeds produced and fruits removed, which putatively leads to higher seed dispersal) decreased strongly near to forest edges. In contrast, visitation rates of the main pollinator (the hummingbird) were unaffected by edges, and their strong effects on fruit set (including the alleviation of quality pollen limitation arising in the forest interior) might be mitigating the decrease in bumblebee visitation near to forest edges.
  5. Synthesis. Our study shows clearly how secondary and tertiary responses to forest edges acted in opposite directions (increasing or decreasing plant reproductive performance), highlighting the need to study several successive processes that impact upon plant fitness under disturbance. Preserving relatively large patches of old-growth forest with low perimeter/area ratios would be key to the habitat requirements of the main disperser and pollinator and thus for mistletoe reproductive performance.