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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Dec 7;275(1652):2759-67. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0894.

Neighbourhood density and genetic relatedness interact to determine fruit set and abortion rates in a continuous tropical tree population.

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  • 1Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 0843-03092, Balboa Ancon, Panama City, Republic of Panama.


Tropical trees may show positive density dependence in fruit set and maturation due to pollen limitation in low-density populations. However, pollen from closely related individuals in the local neighbourhood might reduce fruit set or increase fruit abortion in self-incompatible tree species. We investigated the role of neighbourhood density and genetic relatedness on individual fruit set and abortion in the neotropical tree Jacaranda copaia in a large forest plot in central Panama. Using nested neighbourhood models, we found a strong positive effect of increased conspecific density on fruit set and maturation. However, high neighbourhood genetic relatedness interacted with density to reduce total fruit set and increase the proportion of aborted fruit. Our results imply a fitness advantage for individuals growing in high densities as measured by fruit set, but realized fruit set is lowered by increased neighbourhood relatedness. We hypothesize that the mechanism involved is increased visitation by density-dependent invertebrate pollinators in high-density populations, which increases pollen quantity and carry-over and increases fruit set and maturation, coupled with self-incompatibility at early and late stages due to biparental inbreeding that lowers fruit set and increases fruit abortion. Implications for the reproductive ecology and conservation of tropical tree communities in continuous and fragmented habitats are discussed.

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