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Keywords:

  • Assembly rule;
  • Correlation;
  • Discriminant analysis;
  • Seed dispersal spectra;
  • Species pool;
  • Thuja occidentalis
  • Gleason & Cronquist (1991)

Abstract. Cliff-face communities of the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario, Canada, are dominated by long-lived Thuja occidentalis and a consistent assemblage of other plants. Our objective was to determine whether seed rain plays a role in determining why these species are dominant. Seed rain was collected from the cliff face and from the surrounding plateau-and talus communities at two sites over a 2-yr period in order to compare these three adjacent, but different communities. Multivariate Discriminant Analysis first separated the two sites: primarily due to the importance of Betula papyrifera at one site. The three community types were also separated, although there was still substantial overlap. There was a predictable array of species associated with each community although the seed rain on the cliff faces differed slightly. When characterized by univariate ANOVAs, seed rain in the cliff faces and plateaus had a lower species richness and lower total seed density than the talus sites. Seeds of two of the 11 species analysed individually showed an influence of habitat type on their number. Seed morphology did not influence patterns of seed rain. Finally, there was no correlation between the seed rain and above-ground vegetation in any of the communities. We conclude that the seed rain patterns that exist do not act to filter the plants that form the mature vegetation of cliffs.