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Population demography and fecundity do not decline with habitat fragmentation in the rainforest tree Macadamia integrifolia (Proteaceae)

Neal, Jodi M., Hardner, Craig M., Gross, C.L.
Biological conservation 2010 v.143 no.11 pp. 2591-2600
Macadamia integrifolia, correlation, demography, extinction, fecundity, flowering, fruiting, habitat fragmentation, inflorescences, leaves, mortality, perfluorocarbons, probability, rain forests, seedling emergence, seedling production, trees, viability
Habitat fragmentation is often associated with reduced levels of fitness and local extinction of plant species, and consequently poses a major threat to the persistence of species worldwide. The majority of demography-based fragmentation studies to date have focussed primarily on fragmentation impacts on individual plant fecundity. Here we investigate the impact of habitat fragmentation on the demography (plant height classes and density) and key population dynamic processes for the rainforest tree species Macadamia integrifolia (Proteaceae). Raceme and fruit production and seedling emergence across fragmented sites exceeded that in more intact sites with no apparent difference in short-term mortality rates. Fecundity of flowering trees did not appear to be affected by fragmentation. Instead, overall reproductive output in fragmented sites was enhanced relative to undisturbed sites due to a higher proportion of reproductively active individuals. The probability of flowering and fruiting was negatively correlated with the projected foliage cover (PFC) surrounding individual trees, and average PFC was significantly lower in small and medium fragments, suggesting light availability as a potential contributor to the trends observed here. This study demonstrates that the short-term effects of habitat fragmentation on population viability may not necessarily be detrimental for some species, and highlights the importance of assessing not only the fecundity of flowering individuals but also the proportion of individuals reproducing within fragments.