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Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 25;6:37830. doi: 10.1038/srep37830.

Conspecific Leaf Litter-Mediated Effect of Conspecific Adult Neighborhood on Early-Stage Seedling Survival in A Subtropical Forest.

Liu H1,2, Shen G1,2, Ma Z1,2, Yang Q1,2, Xia J1,2, Fang X1,2, Wang X1,2.

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School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China.
Tiantong National Forest Ecosystem Observation and Research Station, Ningbo, Zhejiang 315114, China.


Conspecific adults have strong negative effect on the survival of nearby early-stage seedlings and thus can promote species coexistence by providing space for the regeneration of heterospecifics. The leaf litter fall from the conspecific adults, and it could mediate this conspecific negative adult effect. However, field evidence for such effect of conspecific leaf litter remains absent. In this study, we used generalized linear mixed models to assess the effects of conspecific leaf litter on the early-stage seedling survival of four dominant species (Machilus leptophylla, Litsea elongate, Acer pubinerve and Distylium myricoides) in early-stage seedlings in a subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest in eastern China. Our results consistently showed that the conspecific leaf litter of three species negatively affected the seedling survival. Meanwhile, the traditional conspecific adult neighborhood indices failed to detect this negative conspecific adult effect. Our study revealed that the accumulation of conspecific leaf litter around adults can largely reduce the survival rate of nearby seedlings. Ignoring it could result in underestimation of the importance of negative density dependence and negative species interactions in the natural forest communities.

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