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Origin and deposition sites influence seed germination and seedling survival of Manilkara zapota: implications for long-distance, animal-mediated seed dispersal

  • Georgina O'Farrill (a1), Colin A. Chapman (a2) and Andrew Gonzalez (a2)

Abstract

The distribution and dynamics of plant populations depend on the recruitment of young individuals, which is influenced by seed production, animal seed dispersal, dispersal distance, and the deposition of seeds in favourable places for seed germination/establishment and seedling survival. In particular, seeds dispersed over long distances will likely encounter new environmental conditions that occur at large spatial scales, with seed and seedling survival influenced by the adaptation of plant populations to soil and climate conditions. In this paper, it is hypothesized that seed germination and seedling survival probabilities depend on seed origin and deposition sites. A reciprocal seed and seedling transplant experiment was carried out with zapote seeds (Manilkara zapota) to determine the effect of origin and deposition sites on seed germination and seedling survival over a year in the Greater Calakmul Region of Mexico. Two origin and two deposition sites were selected that show different soil moisture levels within the habitat of the Baird's tapir, a major seed disperser of M. zapota seeds. The results show that sites of origin and deposition influenced seed germination and seedling survival probabilities. This suggests that the displacement of seeds far from parent trees, while potentially reducing intraspecific competition, does not ensure their survival, and that seeds need to be deposited in microsites within their environmental tolerance for dispersal to be successful. Furthermore, this paper emphasizes the importance of field experiments to provide strong inference about the effects of environmental conditions on recruitment and distribution of plant species.

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*Correspondence Fax: 1+514-3985069 Email: georgina.ofarrill@mail.mcgill.ca

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