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How do habitat and climate variation affect phenology of the Amazonian palm, Mauritia flexuosa?

  • Roxaneh Khorsand Rosa (a1), Reinaldo Imbrozio Barbosa (a2) and Suzanne Koptur (a1)

Although the dioecious palm, Mauritia flexuosa plays a pivotal role in Amazonian ecology and economy, little is known about its flowering and fruiting patterns. We investigated the role of habitat and inter-annual precipitation in the phenology of M. flexuosa. We calculated sex ratios and recorded phenology for 20 mo in four populations (N = 246) of savanna–forest ecotone (two sites) and forest (two sites) habitat in Roraima, Brazilian Amazonia. Sex ratios were significantly female-biased, and >98% of females set fruit. No significant relationship was found between habitat and sex. Flowering occurred at the wet/dry season interface (August–November), and fruit maturation occurred during the wet season (May–August). Males and females flowered synchronously, and neither the onset nor termination of flowering differed significantly between habitats. Flowering was negatively associated with present precipitation and positively correlated with prior precipitation (3 mo). Fruiting was positively associated with present precipitation and unrelated to prior precipitation (3 mo). We conclude that habitat has an insignificant effect, although short-term climatic variation may influence phenology of this species in northern Amazonia. These results highlight the need for long-term studies relating flowering and fruiting events, and inter-annual climatic variation.

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Journal of Tropical Ecology
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