EFFECTS OF CANOPY OPENNESS ON SEEDLING SURVIVAL AND GROWTH AFTER SELECTIVE LOGGING IN A MONODOMINANT LOWLAND SWAMP FOREST IN COSTA RICA
Keywords:Light environment, monodominance, Pentaclethra macroloba, Prioria copaifera, seedling growth
The mechanism proposed to explain tree monodominance in tropical forests is that the dominant species forms a dense canopy and produces shade-tolerant seedlings, which together favor selfreplacement. Under this hypothesis, seedlings of monodominant species should have limited ability to respond to drastic increases in understory light, like those resulting from logging. Therefore, monodominant species should lose their seedling dominance after logging-induced canopy opening. To test this hypothesis, the current study measured seedling survival and growth of the monodominant species, Prioria copaifera, and its main competitor, Pentaclethra macroloba, in two forest stands that differ in logging history and in an unlogged stand in southeastern Costa Rica. Although, growth rates and survival of previously established seedlings were similar for both species across the three stands, seedling survival and growth decreased as light increased, with the effect being more pronounced for Prioria than for Pentaclethra. The study also investigated the ability of Prioria to respond to changing light environments by transplanting seedlings into logging-induced canopy gaps. Contrary to prediction, Prioria seedlings survived and grew better in gap centers than in gap edges or under a closed canopy. This result contrasts with established seedlings that cannot acclimate to changes in light conditions. Therefore, we conclude that continued Prioria dominance in selectively logged forests depends more on seedling production after canopy disturbance than on the established seedling present before disturbances.