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Resilience of seed production to a severe El Niño-induced drought across functional groups and dispersal types

Resilience of seed production to a severe El Niño-induced drought across functional groups and dispersal types

Global Change Biology 24(11): 5270-5280

More frequent and severe El Niño Southern Oscillations (ENSO) are causing episodic periods of decreased rainfall. Although the effects of these ENSO-induced droughts on tree growth and mortality have been well studied, the impacts on other demographic rates such as reproduction are less well known. We use a four-year seed rain dataset encompassing the most severe ENSO-induced drought in more than 30 years to assess the resilience (i.e., resistance and recovery) of the seed composition and abundance of three forest types in a tropical dry forest. We found that forest types showed distinct differences in the timing, duration, and intensity of drought during the ENSO event, which likely mediated seed composition shifts and resilience. Drought-deciduous species were particularly sensitive to the drought with overall poor resilience of seed production, whereby seed abundance of this functional group failed to recover to predrought levels even two years after the drought. Liana and wind-dispersed species were able to maintain seed production both during and after drought, suggesting that ENSO events promote early successional species or species with a colonization strategy. Combined, these results suggest that ENSO-induced drought mediates the establishment of functional groups and dispersal types suited for early successional conditions with more open canopies and reduced competition among plants. The effects of the ENSO-induced drought on seed composition and abundance were still evident two years after the event suggesting the recovery of seed production requires multiple years that may lead to shifts in forest composition and structure in the long term, with potential consequences for higher trophic levels like frugivores.

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Accession: 065478712

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 30080318

DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14416

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