Distance-dependent effects of soil-derived biota on seedling survival of the tropical tree legumeOrmosia semicastrata

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How do seed germination and subsequent seedling survival of O. semicastrata (Hance forma litchiifolia How) vary with respect to distance from parent trees and conspecific density in different types of tropical forest? Are there effects of soil biota on O. semicastrata that systematically depend on distance from parent trees and conspecific density? Do soil pathogens differently affect survival of O. semicastrata in different types of tropical forest?


Tropical lowland rain forest and tropical montane rain forest in Jianfengling National Nature Reserve, Hainan Island, China.


Individual adult O. semicastrata trees were selected in lowland rain forest and montane rain forest. Soil was collected at a distance of 0–5 m or 15–20 m from the parent tree. Soil samples from each distance were combined into a bulk sample. Half of the soil sample was sterilized by autoclaving. Surface-sterilized seeds were then added to the soil material in shade-houses at both forests.


Germination of O. semicastrata seeds at low- or high-seed density was barely affected by the sterilization procedure. In both forests, seedlings grown in non-sterilized soil collected close to parent trees had significantly higher mortality compared to those in sterilized soil. In contrast, seedling survival with soil collected far from parent trees was not affected by the soil sterilization procedure.


Host-specific pathogens concentrated in the soil around parent trees may regulate community structure of tropical trees at the stage of seedling development.

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