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Keywords:

  • asexual reproduction;
  • regeneration modes;
  • restinga;
  • seed reproduction;
  • sprouting;
  • tropical rainforest

Abstract

The relative importance of sexual reproduction (seed) and sprouting as sources for regeneration in Brazilian Atlantic Forest was evaluated in three different successional forest stages: young forest, immature forest, and late-successional forest. Young plants (10–100 cm tall) of tree species were classified into the following categories: (1) seedlings that are nonsprouting—plants that originated through sexual reproduction as seeds; (2) stem base sprouting—plants that sprouted at the base of an existing plant; and (3) underground stem sprouting—plants that sprouted from subterranean stems of an existing plant. A total of 1,030 individuals of 48 species were collected. Underground stem sprouting is the rarest form of propagation, with stem base sprouting somewhat more common and possibly associated with recovery of damaged parts. The greatest contribution to regeneration was due to seeds: 92% of the individuals counted in 67% of the plant species. However, 13 species were “facultative” sprouters as seedlings and sprouters were observed in this group. The three forest ages differed in the proportion of regeneration strategies; in immature forest, sprouting was more common (15%) than in young (7%) and late-successional (3%; p < 0.05) forest. In these three forest stages, germinating seeds are the major source of new plants; although sprouting as a reproductive strategy is rare, it is related to recovery after damage of an already existing plant and may be due to previous land use history (agriculture) and low soil fertility. Restoration using natural regeneration should consider these factors to understand seed arrival as seed is the main source of regeneration.