Rain forest understorey ferns facilitate tree seedling survival under animal non-trophic stress

Song, Guo-Zhang Michael, Yates, David J. and Doley, David (2012) Rain forest understorey ferns facilitate tree seedling survival under animal non-trophic stress. Journal of Vegetation Science, 23 5: 847-857. doi:10.1111/j.1654-1103.2012.01398.x

Author Song, Guo-Zhang Michael
Yates, David J.
Doley, David
Title Rain forest understorey ferns facilitate tree seedling survival under animal non-trophic stress
Journal name Journal of Vegetation Science   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1100-9233
Publication date 2012-10
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2012.01398.x
Volume 23
Issue 5
Start page 847
End page 857
Total pages 11
Place of publication Grangaerde, Sweden
Publisher Opulus Press
Collection year 2013
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Questions: Although forest ecosystems harbour many animal species and animal non-trophic effects are as ubiquitous as trophic effects, few studies have examined animal non-trophic effects on plant–plant interactions. Can animal non-trophic behaviour influence plant–plant interactions and thus, change the net effect of interactions, especially those between understorey vegetation and tree seedlings? How do the species traits of understorey vegetation and animals contribute to their interactions with seedlings?
Location: The Main Range National Park, southeast Queensland, Australia.
Methods: Seedling survival related to the cover of understorey vegetation (mainly the fern Lastreopsis decomposita) was monitored in a 0.5-m wide and 200-m long transect for 2 yrs. Ten per cent of the transect was caged to estimate the effects of non-trophic disturbances from two pheasant-size, ground-dwelling birds (Menura alberti and Alectura lathami) for 1 yr. Two hundred plastic tags (5 × 5 cm) were placed in the transect to quantify bird disturbance and litter input.
Results: The negative effects of the fern understorey on seedlings were increased light deficits, greater risk of herbivory and wilting or rotting; the positive effects were reduced uprooting and litter smothering due to abiotic and bird disturbances. Notably, the exclusion of bird activity changed the net effect of the fern understorey from positive to neutral, and seedling survival was positively correlated with fern cover.
Conclusions: The net effect of plant-plant interactions is subject to change when additional species are involved. In addition to trophic effects, non-trophic effects are such that they can change interactions between plants. A conceptual model of species traits contributing to interactions is presented.
Keyword Australian rain forest
Litter stress
Plant-plant interaction
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation Publications
Official 2013 Collection
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 4 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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