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Effects of Forest Fragmentation and Flowering Phenology on the Reproductive Success and Mating Patterns of the Tropical Dry Forest Tree Pachira quinata

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The results of several studies suggest that forest fragmentation affects the mating patterns and reproductive success of tropical tree species by reducing pollinator activity, pollen deposition, and outcrossing levels. The flowering synchrony of trees has also been proposed as an additional factor in controlling fruit set and regulating levels of outcrossing, particularly in disturbed habitats. We examined the effects of forest fragmentation and flowering phenology on the reproductive success and genetic structure of the progeny produced by the tropical tree Pachira quinata. We conducted our study in the dry forest of Costa Rica and compared trees in two density and environmental conditions: ( 1 ) isolated trees separated by 500 m from other adult conspecifics and located in disturbed sites and ( 2 ) trees from continuous populations of groups of 20 or more reproductive individuals per hectare surrounded by undisturbed mature forest. Our study was conducted in the Guanacaste Conservation Area, Costa Rica, and surrounding areas. To evaluate flowering phenology, trees were classified as having synchronous or asynchronous flowering. The phenological stage of individuals was classified according to the proximity of the peak flowering date of each tree with respect to the mean peak flowering of the rest of the population. Six percent of the flowers produced a fruit in trees from continuous populations, whereas in isolated trees only 3% of the flowers did so. Fruit set was not affected by the flowering phenology of trees but was influenced mainly by factors associated with forest fragmentation. Seed production per fruit was not affected by forest fragmentation or flowering phenology. Overall, total fruit production per tree was not affected by forest fragmentation, because isolated trees tended to produce more flowers than trees from continuous populations. Genetic analysis revealed that the progeny of trees from continuous populations experienced lower levels of relatedness, a tendency for higher levels of outcrossing, and/or more sires than isolated trees. Our results suggest that forest fragmentation can have an effect on the mating patterns of P. quinata, reducing the number of outcross sires represented in the progeny of isolated trees.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Escuela de Biología, Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica 2: Instituto de Ecología, Departamento de Ecología de los Recursos Naturales, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 27–3 ( Xangari ) 58089, Morelia, Michoacán, México,

Publication date: February 1, 2003

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