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Keywords:

  • Keystone forest type;
  • liana;
  • mast fruiting;
  • phenology;
  • phylogenetic diversity;
  • tropical trees

Abstract

For 68 months, we observed the reproductive behaviour of 7288 woody plants (172 figs, 1457 climbers and 5659 trees) spanning major soil and elevational gradients. Two 2–3 month community-wide supra-annual fruiting events were synchronized across five forest types, coinciding with ENSO events. At least 27 genera in 24 families restricted their reproduction to these events, which involved a substantial proportion of tree diversity (> 80% of phylogenetic diversity). During these events, mean reproductive levels (8.5%) represented an almost four-fold increase compared with other months. These patterns indicate a strong behavioural advantage to this unusual reproductive behaviour. Montane forest experienced a single, separate fruiting peak while the peat swamp forest did not participate. Excluding these events, no temporal reproductive pattern was detectible, at either the landscape or forest type. These phenological patterns have major implications for the conservation of frugivore communities, with montane and swamp forests acting as ‘keystone’ forests.