Seed size, establishment sites and species coexistence in a Chilean rain forest

Christopher H. Lusk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract. Seedling densities on the forest floor and on elevated microsites (logs and stumps) were compared for eight woody species in a temperate rain forest in southern Chile. Degree of association with elevated microsites varied significantly between species, showed no systematic relationship with reported shade tolerance, but was significantly negatively correlated with seed mass. Large‐seeded Podocarpus nubigena established preferentially on undisturbed forest floor sites, whereas seedlings of small‐seeded species such as Nothofagus nitida and Laurelia philippiana were found mainly on fallen logs and stumps. The abundance of large seedlings and saplings of N. nitida on logs/stumps, and the growth forms of canopy trees, confirm that recruitment of this species occurs mainly on decaying wood. The relationship between seed size and microsite preferences may be caused by effects of seed size on (1) ability to establish in forest floor litter and (2) retention of seeds on logs. Seedling occupancy of logs and stumps varied with state of decay. Few seedlings of any species were present on logs in the early stages of decay. N. nitida established earlier than the other species, attaining maximum abundance on wood in the middle decay classes. Species richness and overall seedling abundance were highest on wood in advanced stages of decay. Seed size differences are suggested as a determinant of differential utilization of forest floor heterogeneity, and hence of plant species coexistence. 1995 IAVS ‐ the International Association of Vegetation Science

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-256
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • Coarse woody debris
  • Diversity
  • Nothofagus
  • Nurse log
  • Regeneration niche
  • Spatial heterogeneity


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