Reproductive plants in tropical forests are patchily distributed, with some in large aggregations of reproductive consepecifics while others are relatively isolated. This variation in floral density is hypothesized to have a major effect on plant reproductive success, since individuals in higher density neighborhoods can attract more or higher quality pollinators. We experimentally tested this hypothesis with populations of the understory herb Heliconia acuminata in central Amazonia. We created replicated plots in which reproductive plant density spanned the range of naturally occurring floral neighborhood size, then measured three surrogates of plant fitness in focal plants in each array. There was no significant difference between any of the three floral neighborhood treatments in total seed production, fruit set, or the number of seeds produced per fruit. Pollinator visitation rates to plants in all treatments were extremely low, with many plants not visited at all during the observation period. This could be because H. acuminata's hummingbird pollinators are unable to find the widely scattered reproductive plants, however this hypothesis appears unlikely. Instead, natural flowering plant densities may simply be below the threshold value at which neighborhood effects become important, even in "high-density" aggregations. Nutrient limitation, selective fruit abortion, and reproduction via male rather than female function may also be playing a role. We argue the absence of neighborhood effects may be a general phenomenon in central Amazonian forests, though additional experiments with other plant-pollinator systems are needed to determine the extent to which this hypothesis is supported.
Phaethornis; resource limitation; pollinator limitation; transplants