Tuesday, August 7, 2007

PS 38-200: Pre-dispersal seed predation of Spondias axillaris, a South-East Asian tropical tree: Rethinking forest restoration practice

Wirong Chanthorn, Warren Y. Brockelman, and Michael A. Allen. Mahidol University

Spondias axillaris is an important species for forest restoration in South-East Asia. However, the selection is normally carried out based on its advantages for field collection, nursery growing and planting season. This study has demonstrated that more study in the wild is needed for achieving the long term goal. We studied fruit production of the species on a long term forest dynamics plot in Thailand by setting up 9-10 fruit traps randomly under the crowns of 12 trees, approximately one month before the beginning of the dispersal period (ripening time) in 2004 and 2005.  The squirrel Callosciurus finlaysonii was the main seed predator of immature fruit in the pre-dispersal stage. Another, less common squirrel, the giant black squirrel Ratufa bicolor, fed on ripening fruit and dropped the seeds after eating the pulp. The result demonstrated that there is variation in the level of predation on individual trees. Some trees suffered from high predation of green fruit but some trees were rarely fed on. This pattern persisted in both years. It appears that individual trees vary in attractiveness to seed predators, and this variation is at least partly based on intrinsic properties. If this is true, selection of stocks for germination and planting should be based on the tree proven potential for producing recruits and not merely convenience of rearing in the nursery.