Journal of Tropical Ecology

Research Article

Effects of forest age on fruit composition and removal in tropical bird-dispersed understorey trees

Heather A. Lumpkina1 c1 and W. Alice Boylea2

a1 Department of Life Sciences, Bethel College, 1001 W. McKinley Ave. Mishawaka, IN 46545, USA

a2 University of Western Ontario, Department of Biology, London, ON, N6A 5B7, Canada


Little is known about how land-use changes affect interspecific interactions such as fruit–frugivore mutualisms. Forest age could affect both fruit sugar concentrations via differences in light availability or disperser abundance, and fruit removal rates via differences in bird and plant community composition. We examined how these two factors are affected by forest age in a Costa Rican rain forest. We compared seven young-secondary forest species, seven old-growth forest species, and Miconia nervosa growing in both forests. We measured sugar concentrations in fruits and manipulated the location of paired fruiting branches, measuring subsequent fruit removal. Sugar concentration means were on average 2.1 percentage points higher in young-secondary forest species than in old-growth forest species, but did not differ among Miconia nervosa fruits from the two forests. Fruit removal rates were higher in young-secondary forest for 86% of young-secondary forest species, 71% of old-growth forest species, and on average for both young-secondary and old-growth forest Miconia nervosa individuals. Higher sugar concentrations in young-secondary forest plants could reflect stronger competition for dispersers, while experimental fruit removal results suggests the opposite patterns of competition; fruits are more likely to be removed by dispersers in young-secondary forest independent of fruit nutrient concentration.

(Accepted April 25 2009)


c1 Corresponding author. Current address: Department of Zoology, Birge Hall, University of Wisconsin, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA. Email: