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Fleshy-fruited species increase with elevation for woody lianas but peak in mid-elevations for herbaceous vines in a subtropical forest system

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Lei, BY; Cui, JF; Newman, C; Han, ZD; He, H; Xie, ZQ; Zhou, YB

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2021

ACTA OECOLOGICA-INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY

111

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Fruit type composition (dry or fleshy) can substantially influence plant community function. Many studies have researched how fruit type changes with elevation gradient in montane regions; however, these data are lacking for climbing plants. Climbing plants have unique functional traits and requirements, determined by a diversity of factors. Here we analyzed the fruit type produced by 245 climbing plant species collected along a 3-km elevational gradient in a subtropical forest ecosystem in China. We found that woody lianas showed a monotonic increase (McFadden's R-2 = 0.164) in the proportion of fleshy-fruited species, while herbaceous vines showed a unimodal pattern (McFadden's R-2 = 0.080). The results remained consistent after taking phylogenetic correlation among species into account. This clear relationship suggests that for climbing plants the change in various environmental factors with elevation is the main driver of the proportion of fleshy-fruited species. Understanding which factors and mechanisms underpin climbing plant fruit types, and thus seed dispersal dynamics, is not only important for conceptual ecology, but also for conservation and predicting forest composition under global change.

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