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Identifying keystone plant resources in an Amazonian forest using a long-term fruit-fall record

  • Zoë Diaz-Martin (a1), Varun Swamy (a2) (a3), John Terborgh (a2), Patricia Alvarez-Loayza (a2) and Fernando Cornejo (a4)...

The keystone plant resources (KPR) concept describes certain plant species in tropical forests as vital to community stability and diversity because they provide food resources to vertebrate consumers during the season of scarcity. Here, we use an 8-y, continuous record of fruit fall from a 1.44-ha mature forest stand to identify potential KPRs in a lowland western Amazonian rain forest. KPRs were identified based on four criteria: temporal non-redundancy; year-to-year reliability; abundance of reproductive-size individuals and inferred fruit crop size; and the variety of vertebrate consumers utilizing their fruit. Overall, seven species were considered excellent KPRs: two of these belong to the genus Ficus, confirming that this taxon is a KPR as previously suggested. Celtis iguanaea (Cannabaceae) – a canopy liana – has also been previously classified as a KPR; in addition, Pseudomalmea diclina (Annonaceae), Cissus ulmifolia (Vitaceae), Allophylus glabratus (Sapindaceae) and Trichilia elegans (Meliaceae) are newly identified KPRs. Our results confirm that a very small fraction (<5%) of the plant community consistently provides fruit for a broad set of consumers during the period of resource scarcity, which has significant implications for the conservation and management of Amazonian forests.

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Journal of Tropical Ecology
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  • EISSN: 1469-7831
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