Impact of Culm Harvest on Seed Production in a Monocarpic Bamboo


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Successful regeneration of bamboos from seed is a key issue in the ecology of many tropical regions and the livelihoods of their inhabitants. The gregarious monocarpy of many bamboos may be driven by a need to satiate seed predators by seeding in abundance at infrequent intervals. In long-lived clonal monocarps, seed production is expected to be positively related to the success of the clone in generating more and larger ramets during its lifetime. Ramification may be constrained by harvesting of culms, but it is unclear whether the reduction in productivity is proportional to the loss of reproductive biomass. We counted the seed produced by 661 culms (ramet stems) sampled from 90 clumps of the gregariously monocarpic bamboo Schizostachyum dullooa that is intensively harvested by villagers in northeastern India. The smallest clumps had fewer culms and few or no culms more than one year old. Seed production was indeed positively related to culm size and the number of culms in a clump. First-year culms were markedly more productive than older culms after controlling for culm diameter and clump size. There was a negative effect of clump size on productivity per culm which may occur because clumps that had been harvested heavily were able to exploit resources retained in rhizomes from harvested culms. Nevertheless, small clumps produced much less seed than larger clumps, generating a risk of unknown magnitude that heavily harvested stands of monocarpic bamboos may be unable to satiate seed predators during their single opportunity for reproduction.