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Keywords:

  • Convallaria ;
  • Frangula ;
  • Prunus ;
  • seed size;
  • seedling recruitment

Abstract

Large seeds contain more stored resources, and seedlings germinating from large seeds generally cope better with environmental stresses such as shading, competition and thick litter layers, than seedlings germinating from small seeds. A pattern with small-seeded species being associated with open habitats and large-seeded species being associated with closed (shaded) habitats has been suggested and supported by comparative studies. However, few studies have assessed the intra-specific relationship between seed size and recruitment, comparing plant communities differing in canopy cover. Here, seeds from four plant species commonly occurring in ecotones between open and closed habitats (Convallaria majalis, Frangula alnus, Prunus padus and Prunus spinosa) were weighed and sown individually (3200 seeds per species) in open and closed-canopy sites, and seedling emergence and survival recorded over 3 years. Our results show a generally positive, albeit weak, relationship between seed size and recruitment. In only one of the species, C. majalis, was there an association between closed canopy habitat and a positive seed size effect on recruitment. We conclude that there is a weak selection gradient favouring larger seeds, but that this selection gradient is not clearly related to habitat.