In the highly fragmented landscape of Los Tuxtlas, Mexico, we studied seed rain, seed bank, and vegetation established beneath the canopies of five fig trees (Ficus spp.) isolated in pastures. The area beneath the canopy of each fig tree was enclosed with a barbed wire fence to exclude cattle, and weeding with machete and herbicide spraying were stopped. Annual seed rain beneath the canopy of the five trees was 20,936 seeds (1066 seeds/m2) belonging to 149 species. Seed rain was dominated by woody species dispersed by frugivorous birds and bats. Most captured seeds (94%) were small (seed diam < 3 mm). A total of 6290 individuals from 78 species germinated from the seed bank (1258 seeds/m2). Ruderal herbs dominated the seed bank (52% of spp. and 77% of seeds). After three years of exclusion, a dense, 4–5 m tall understory comprised of woody plants developed beneath the canopy of the five fig trees. A total of 621 plants (4.6 plants/m2) from 95 species were recorded along 15 transects placed beneath the canopy of the fenced trees. Primary forest and pioneer tree and shrub species dominated species richness (55%) and abundance (37%) of established vegetation, but secondary and pioneer species had higher overall biomass. Most of the established plants (68%) had relatively large seeds (>3 mm). When cattle was excluded and management practices were stopped, remnant trees in Los Tuxtlas pastures effectively favored the early establishment of late successional species, including large-seeded canopy and subcanopy trees.
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Vol. 36 • No. 1