Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Potential effects of arboreal and terrestrial avian dispersers on seed dormancy, seed germination and seedling establishment in Ormosia (Papilionoideae) species in Peru

Mercedes S. Fostera1 c1

a1 USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, MRC 0111, National Museum of Natural History, PO Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA


The relative effectiveness of arboreal or terrestrial birds at dispersing seeds of Ormosia macrocalyx and O. bopiensis (Fabaceae: Papilionoideae) were studied in south-eastern Peru. Seeds of both species were either scarified, to represent seed condition after dispersal by terrestrial birds, or left intact, to represent seed condition after dispersal by arboreal birds. Seeds were distributed along forest transects, and germination, seedling development and mortality were monitored to determine the successes of the two groups at producing seedlings. Scarified seeds germinated with the early rains of the dry-to-wet-season transition, when erratic rainfall was interspersed with long dry spells. Intact seeds germinated 30 d later when the rain was more plentiful and regular. Intact seeds of O. macrocalyx gave rise to significantly more seedlings (41.1% vs. 25.5%) than did scarified seeds, in part, because significantly more seedlings from scarified seeds (n = 20) than from intact seeds (n = 3) died from desiccation when their radicles failed to enter the dry ground present during the dry-to-wet-season transition. Also, seedlings from scarified seeds were neither larger nor more robust than those from intact seeds despite their longer growing period. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that dispersal effectiveness of arboreal birds, at least for O. macrocalyx, is greater than that of terrestrial birds. Screen-house experiments in which seedlings developed under different watering regimes supported this result. Numbers of seedlings developing from intact and scarified seeds of O. bopiensis did not differ significantly.

(Accepted August 27 2008)


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