Explaining conifer dominance in Afrotemperate forests: Shade tolerance favours Podocarpus latifolius over angiosperm species

H ADIE, Michael Lawes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    We contrasted the regeneration success of angiosperm canopy species with that of Podocarpus latifolius to test whether this conifer was sufficiently shade tolerant to be favoured on infrequently disturbed and well-shaded sites. Seedling and sapling population structures were measured in several habitats representing a light gradient in warm temperate forest in the Drakenberg mountains of South Africa. The angiosperm-dominated forest was well-shaded (?5.5% PAR) and lacked ground vegetation. Seedlings of angiosperm canopy species were abundant but the absence of saplings indicated regeneration failure. In contrast, P. latifolius was represented by all size classes beneath the intact canopy indicating continuous regeneration in angiosperm-dominated forest. Angiosperm regeneration was similarly poor in forest gaps, which were dominated by grasses, ferns and vines. P. latifolius entered the advanced regeneration in gaps by establishing in shade before gap formation. The floor of the Podocarpus-dominated forest was less shaded (?7.5% PAR) than angiosperm-dominated forest and dominated by grass, which suppressed most conifer regeneration. Gaps in Podocarpus forest were more than double the size of gaps in angiosperm forest and dominated by vines and understorey shrubs. There was no clear winner of the angiosperm-conifer contest in Podocarpus forest gaps. Consequently, gaps maintain limited angiosperm diversity in Podocarpus forest. Angiosperm canopy species regenerated continuously in the high light (?11.5% PAR) thicket environment. Few seedlings of P. latifolius were recorded in the thicket environment. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that shaded and infrequently disturbed forest sites favour shade-tolerant conifers over relatively light-demanding angiosperm species. The outcome of the competitive interaction between angiosperm and conifer at the regeneration phase depends on the relative shade-tolerance of associated species. Crown Copyright � 2009.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)176-186
    Number of pages11
    JournalForest Ecology and Management
    Volume259
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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