Strangler fig-host associations in roadside and deciduous forest sites, South India


  • Aviva Patel

    1. Department of Biology, PO Box 249118, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124, U.S.A.
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      Current address: Ecosystem Health, Blackwood Hall, Room 201, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada NlG ZW1.


Abstract. Understanding the regeneration niche of animal-dispersed epiphytes is important in understanding forest community structure, maintenance of species richness in plant communities, animal movements and distributions, and in managing plant and animal communities for conservation. Strangler figs are particularly interesting for studying epiphyte-host relations because they are hemiepiphytes, implying that strangler and host can potentially belong to the same species and either fuse together or strangle each other, and because all stranglers have many-seeded, animal-dispersed fruit, providing many opportunities for seed dispersal to other stranglers. A study was conducted at a roadside and at a forest site in Karnataka State, south India, to determine factors influencing host choice of strangler figs. Stranglers were found more frequently at the roadside site than at the forest site. At the roadside site, stranglers were found much more abundantly on Ficus hosts than on non-Ficus hosts, whereas at the forest site, stranglers were found more abundantly on non-Ficus hosts. Host tree species with animal-dispersed fruit bore significantly more stranglers than those with mechanically dispersed fruit. More stranglers were found on hosts in large d.b.h. size classes (>80 cm d.b.h.) than on those in small d.b.h. classes. Prior studies of strangler-host relations have never found stranglers growing on other stranglers. The results of this study suggest that stranglers are fully capable of regenerating on other stranglers, including conspecifics, but these regeneration events are not observed in forests because of relatively low strangler seed rain, due to lack of clumping of strangler hosts, and low insolation in these habitats.