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Keywords:

  • Atlantic Forest;
  • conservation biology;
  • dioecy;
  • floral display;
  • habitat fragmentation;
  • phenology;
  • pollination;
  • spatial distribution

Abstract

Plant reproductive success is supposedly influenced by phenology and individual size, which may be modified under edge effects. We tested if reproductive success, estimated by fruit set, in Senefeldera verticillata (Euphorbiaceae) is related to flowering synchrony and tree size, including plant height and circumference at breast height. The study was carried out in the interior and in edges of clearings for gas pipelines and electric lines of a lowland rainforest in south-eastern Brazil. Monthly observations were performed during one reproductive season, of 19 individuals that grew at edges of electric lines and gas pipelines and at forest interior. Reproductive success was significantly higher at forest interior than at gas pipeline area; there was no significant difference between gas pipeline and electric line areas or between forest interior and electric line area. In the forest edges, only plant height was positively related to plant reproductive success. This is probably related to crown exposure to sunlight, which enhances flower production. At forest interior, reproductive success was positively influenced by the synchrony of flowering activity among neighbouring individuals. In contrast, flowering synchrony based on phenophase intensity negatively impacted reproductive success. Senefeldera verticillata shows temporal dioecy and is mainly pollinated by small social bees, and the high degree of flowering synchrony at low intensity may increase the number of mating partners and therefore enhance its reproductive success. Inside the forest fragments, individuals with thicker trunks showed lower reproductive success, which may be related to a loss of reproductive capacity of older individuals. Our results evidenced the complexity of responses experienced by tropical plants subjected to forest fragmentation because of linear clearings.