Herbivores differentially limit the seedling growth and sapling recruitment of two dominant rain forest trees

Norghauer, Julian Martin; Newbery, David McClintock (2014). Herbivores differentially limit the seedling growth and sapling recruitment of two dominant rain forest trees. Oecologia, 174(2), pp. 459-469. Springer 10.1007/s00442-013-2769-6

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Resource heterogeneity may influence how plants are attacked and respond to consumers in multiple ways. Perhaps a better understanding of how this interaction might limit sapling recruitment in tree populations may be achieved by examining species’ functional responses to herbivores on a continuum of resource availability. Here, we experimentally reduced herbivore pressure on newly established seedlings of two dominant masting trees in 40 canopy gaps, across c. 80 ha of tropical rain forest in central Africa (Korup, Cameroon). Mesh cages were built to protect individual seedlings, and their leaf production and changes in height were followed for 22 months. With more light, herbivores increasingly prevented the less shade-tolerant Microberlinia bisulcata from growing as tall as it could and producing more leaves, indicating an undercompensation. The more shade-tolerant Tetraberlinia bifoliolata was much less affected by herbivores, showing instead near to full compensation for leaf numbers, and a negligible to weak impact of herbivores on its height growth. A stage-matrix model that compared control and caged populations lent evidence for a stronger impact of herbivores on the long-term population dynamics of M. bisulcata than T. bifoliolata. Our results suggest that insect herbivores can contribute to the local coexistence of two abundant tree species at Korup by disproportionately suppressing sapling recruitment of the faster-growing dominant via undercompensation across the light gradient created by canopy disturbances. The functional patterns we have documented here are consistent with current theory, and, because gap formations are integral to forest regeneration, they may be more widely applicable in other tropical forest communities. If so, the interaction between life-history and herbivore impact across light gradients may play a substantial role in tree species coexistence.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Vegetation Ecology (discontinued)

UniBE Contributor:

Norghauer, Julian Martin and Newbery, David McClintock

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0029-8549

Publisher:

Springer

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

06 Jun 2014 12:46

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2015 11:47

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s00442-013-2769-6

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Africa, Canopy gaps, Herbivory, Insects, Tropics

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.53534

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/53534

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