The overarching issue for understanding biodiversity maintenance is how fitness advantages accrue to a species as it becomes rare, as this is the defining feature of stable coexistence mechanisms. Without these fitness advantages, average fitness differences between species will lead to exclusion. However, empirical evidence is lacking, especially for forests, due to the difficulty of manipulating density on a large-enough scale. Here we took advantage of naturally occurring contrasts in abundance between sites of a subtropical tree species, Ormosia glaberrima, to demonstrate how low-density fitness advantages accrue by the Janzen-Connell mechanism. The results showed that soil pathogens suppressed seedling recruitment of O. glaberrima when it is abundant but had little effect on the seedlings when it is at low density due to the lack of pathogens. The difference in seedling survival between abundant and low-density sites demonstrates strong dependence of pathogenic effect on the abundance of host species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Physics and Astronomy