The role of animals in the colonization of the Krakatau Islands by fig trees (Ficus species)

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Abstract

Abstract. Since the biologically extirpating eruption of Krakatau (Sunda Strait) in 1883, Rakata (Krakatau's remnant) and two closely adjacent islands, Sertung and Panjang, have been colonized by over 200 species of vascular plants. They now carry species-poor mixed tropical forest, including some twenty-three species of Ficus. Data on the sequence of colonization over the last century by twenty-four Ficus species, twenty-three species of volant frugivores, and by agaonid fig-wasps, presumably from the large islands of Java and Sumatra, each some 44 km distant, are summarized. The potential of the volant frugivores as dispersers of fig seeds is assessed, the pollination problems involved in the colonization of islands by figs are reviewed and patterns of colonization by fig species and by their bird and bat dispersers are identified and discussed.

In 1930 a new island, Anak Krakatau, emerged from Krakatau's submerged caldera. This active volcano suffered a self-sterilizing eruption in 1952/1953 and has been colonized, under considerable constraint from its own volcanic activity, probably largely from the (selected) species pool present on Rakata, Sertung and Panjang, 2–4 km away. Its vegetation is at an earlier successional stage (grassland and Casuarina woodland) than that of the three older islands, and in 1992 the Casuarina woodland was in an early stage of transition to mixed forest. The colonization of Anak Krakatau by Ficus species, agaonid wasps and volant frugivores over a critical decade (1982–92) is reviewed, including preliminary assessments of the effects of pollinator limitation on four pioneer fig species and indications of a possible effect of the presence of avian raptors, particularly the peregrine falcon, on fig colonization and forest diversification.

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