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Secondary seed dispersal in Montrichardia arborescens (L.) Schott dominated wetlands in Laguna Grande, Venezuela

Gordon, E., Valk, A.G. van der
Plant ecology 2003 v.168 no.2 pp. 177-190
herbaceous plants, trees, vines, shrubs, lakes, wetlands, seed dispersal, buried seeds, plant density, canopy, understory, botanical composition, surface water level, wet season, dry season, Venezuela
Laguna Grande, Monagas State, Venezuela, is a shallow, V-shaped lake created by the confluence of two rivers. Montrichardia arborescens (L.) Schott. dominated wetlands cover most of the north and south arms and the littoral zone of the main body of the lake. The vegetation and seed banks of Montrichardia wetland sites were sampled in the north arm, south arm and main body five times from the end of the dry season in 1991 to beginning of the rainy season in 1992. The composition of the vegetation was similar and changed very little at all three sites during the course of the study. These wetlands had 53 species. Besides M. arborescens, other common species were Hamelia patens Jacq., Mikania cordifolia (L.) Wild., Sarcostemma clausum (Jacq.) Roem. & Schult., and Vitis caribaea L. In both the vegetation and seed banks, species richness was highest during the dry season. Altogether, the seed banks contained the seeds of 61 species of which 35 were also found in the vegetation. Seeds of three tree species were found in the seed banks that did not grow anywhere in the lake. In the seed bank, seeds of Cyperus odoratus L., Eleocharis interstincta (Vahl.) R&S, Ludwigia hyssopifolia (G. Don.) Excell, L. lithospermifolia (Mich.) Hara, Polygonum acuminatum H.B.K., and Sacciolepis striata (L.) Nash were the most abundant. Mean total seed density over the entire study was 6,500, 3,800, and 6,000 seeds/m2 in the north arm, south arm, and main basin, respectively. Seed production and dispersal occur primarily during the dry season, and the highest seed densities at all sites were found in the dry season when there was no or little standing water. The lowest seed densities at all sites were found during the rainy season during which seed densities declined over 80% at the north and south arm sites. In the main body of the lake, however, seed densities during the rainy season, although lower than during the dry season, actually increased significantly from 3,600 seeds/m2 in August 1991 to 6,000 seeds/m2 in October 1991. A significant decrease in seed density in either the north or south arms or both and a significant increase in the main body site during the rainy season occurred for 5 of the 8 species whose seeds were the most abundant, for all life-form guilds, except hydrophytes and for the entire seed bank. Secondary dispersal by water currents during the rainy season appears to be transporting seeds from the north and south arms into the seed bank of the main body of the lake.