Seed germination, seedling growth and habitat partitioning in two morphotypes of the tropical pioneer tree Trema micrantha in a seasonal forest in Panama

Katia Silvera, John B. Skillman, J. W. Dalling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We examined the distribution, germination, growth and photosynthetic characteristics of two co-existing morphotypes of the pioneer tree Trema micrantha at the Barro Colorado Nature Monument (BCNM), Panama. Morphotypes differed significantly in distribution and in seed characteristics. A 'large'-seeded morphotype (endocarp mass = 3.83 mg) was associated with treefall gaps in the forest interior, whereas a 'small'-seeded morphotype (endocarp mass = 1.38 mg) was found predominantly on landslides on the margins of Lake Gatun. Seeds of the small-seeded morphotype germinated faster than seeds of the large-seeded morphotype, with seedlings of the small-seeded morphotype showing both a higher Unit Leaf Rate (ULR) and a lower Specific Leaf Area (SLA). Differences in photosynthetic rates reflected differences in SLA; the small-seeded morphotype had a higher rate on a leaf area basis, while the large-seeded morphotype had a higher rate on a leaf mass basis. Although allocation patterns between morphotypes varied in a way consistent with known interspecific differences between 'sun' and 'shade' plants, relative growth rates (RGR) of the morphotypes were similar across different light conditions suggesting that factors other than light, such as water uptake efficiency, soil nutrient requirements, and perhaps seed dispersal characters may explain the habitat partitioning of morphotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-34
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Tropical Ecology
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2003

Keywords

  • Allocation patterns
  • Barro Colorado Nature Monument
  • Habitat partitioning
  • Seed size
  • Trema micrantha

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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