Plant dispersal strategies and the colonization of Araucaria forest patches in a grassland-forest mosaic


  • Nomenclature: APG 2003; Anon. 2005.

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Questions: In a natural grassland-forest mosaic: What is the influence of phylogeny and diaspore traits related to disperser attraction (DAT) on (1) seed size/number trade-off (SSNT) in woody species colonizing forest patches; (2) on the frequency of the species? 3. What is the influence of forest patch area on mean seed size and number. 4. Do phylogeny and DAT expressed at the species level affect this relationship?

Location: Campos grassland and Araucaria forest in São Francisco de Paula, RS, Brazil, at ca. 29°28’ S; 50° 13’ W.

Methods: Forest patches of different sizes in a grassland site recovering for ten years since human disturbances were surveyed by the relative abundance of vertebrate-dispersed woody saplings. We described colonizer species according to taxonomic phylogenetic relationships and diaspore type, size and color. We analyzed with a variation partitioning method their influence on SSNT and on species frequency in the patches. At the community level we regressed mean seed size and number on forest patch area and evaluated how these relationships were affected by phylogeny and DAT at the species level.

Results: 1. Phylogeny and DAT mostly explained seed size and seed number per diaspore variation. 2. By controlling phylogeny and DAT influence the frequency of species in forest patches was positively associated with their seed number in the diaspores, and negatively associated with their seed size. 3. Mean seed size and seed number at the community level were positively associated with patch area. 4. When phylogeny and DAT influences on seed size were removed this relationship was stronger for seed size and weaker for seed number.

Conclusions: 1. Energy allocation to dispersal in detriment of offspring survival increased the successful establishment of colonizer species in forest patches, despite phylogenetic relationships and DAT variation in their diaspores. 2. Although patch area exerted a selective pressure on seed size, habitat preferences of dispersers may also influence patch colonization.