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Fruiting phenology and dispersal syndromes in a sandy coastal plain in southeastern Brazil

Abstract

Fruits have a wide variety of morphological and phenological characteristics that have been related to environmental conditions and seed dispersal mode. In this paper, we describe the fruit morphology, the fruiting phenology and infer dispersal patterns of 52 species from restinga of Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, in order to understand the richness and temporal variation of these resources in the community. Fleshy, indehiscent, and colored fruits, typical of zoochory, predominate in the restinga (77.8%). Anemochoric fruits represent 13.3%. In 42% of zoochoric species, fruits go through three to five colors until maturity, and different stages of ripeness can be observed on the same plant. A constant supply of zoochoric and anemochoric fruits was observed throughout the year. Unlike flowering, there were no significant correlations between fruiting activity and intensity and abiotic factors. For the community studied, the fruiting pattern observed also contrasts with flowering, due to the lower seasonality, and intensity suggesting that biotic factors, such as seed dispersers (in the case of zoochoric fruits) may have relevance in determining fruit ripening and seed dispersal periods in coastal environments.

Key words
reproductive phenology; Restinga; seed dispersal; zoochoric fruits

Resumo

Frutos apresentam uma grande variedade de características morfológicas e fenológicas que têm sido relacionadas às condições do ambiente e ao modo de dispersão de sementes. Neste trabalho, descrevemos a morfologia dos frutos, a fenologia de frutificação e inferimos padrões de dispersão de 52 espécies da restinga de Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, no sentido de compreender a riqueza e a variação temporal desses recursos na comunidade. Frutos carnosos, indeiscentes e coloridos, típicos de zoocoria, predominam na restinga (77,8%). Frutos anemocóricos representam 13,3%. Em 42% das espécies zoocóricas, os frutos passam por três a cinco cores até a maturação, e diferentes estádios de maturação podem ser observados na mesma planta. Um fornecimento constante de frutos zoocóricos e anemocóricos foi observado ao longo do ano. Diferentemente da floração, não houve correlações significativas entre percentuais de atividade e de intensidade de frutificação e os fatores abióticos. Para a comunidade estudada, o padrão de frutificação observado também contrasta com o da floração, pela menor sazonalidade e intensidade dos eventos, sugerindo que fatores bióticos, como dispersores de sementes (no caso de frutos zoocóricos) podem ter relevância na determinação dos períodos de maturação dos frutos e de dispersão de sementes em ambientes costeiros.

Palavras-chave
fenologia reprodutiva; Restinga; dispersão de sementes; frutos zoocóricos

Introduction

Fruits show a large range of sizes, shapes, number of seeds, colors, odors, ripening phenology, and chemical properties. Many of these features have been related to the environment conditions, mode of seed dispersal, and the animals involved in seed dispersion, being usually gathered to describe dispersal syndromes (van der Pijl 1982van der Pijl L (1982) Principles of dispersal in higher plants. 3rd ed. Springer, Berlin.; Gautier-Hion et al. 1985Gautier-Hion A, Duplantier JM, Quris R, Feer F, Sourd C, Decaux JP, Dubost G, Eemmons L, Erard C, Hecketsweiler H, Moungazi A, Roussilhon C & Tliiollay JM (1985) Fruit characters as a basis of fruit choice and seed dispersal in a tropical forest vertebrate community. Oecologia 65: 324-337. ; Wheelwright & Janson 1985Wheelwright N & Janson CH (1985) Colors of fruit displays of bird-dispersed plants in two tropical forests. The American Naturalist 126: 777-799.). Color is specially one of the most important cues used by frugivores to find fruits (Lomáscolo & Schaefer 2010Lomáscolo SB & Schaefer HM (2010) Signal convergence in fruits: a result of selection by frugivores? Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 614-624.). Fruit color convergence in unrelated plants is independent of phylogeny and supports the hypothesis that frugivores play an important role in fruit evolution (Lomáscolo & Schaefer 2010Lomáscolo SB & Schaefer HM (2010) Signal convergence in fruits: a result of selection by frugivores? Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 614-624.; Valenta et al. 2018Valenta K, Kalbitzer U, Razamandimby D, Omeja P, Ayasse M, Chapman CA & Nevo O (2018) The evolution of fruit color: phylogeny, abiotic factors and the role of mutualists. Scientific Report 8: 14302.). Beyond a host of animal species (zoochoric dispersal), diaspores (seeds, fruits, infructescences and other dispersal units) can reach the ground by action of wind (anemochory), water (hydrochory) or by self-dispersal (van der Pijl 1982van der Pijl L (1982) Principles of dispersal in higher plants. 3rd ed. Springer, Berlin.).

Morphological and phenological characteristics of fruits contribute to the understanding of the temporal variation of these resources and their relationship with seed dispersers (Wheelwright & Janson 1985Wheelwright N & Janson CH (1985) Colors of fruit displays of bird-dispersed plants in two tropical forests. The American Naturalist 126: 777-799.; Schaik et al. 1993Schaik CP, Terborgh JW & Wright JS (1993) The phenology of tropical forests: adaptive significance and consequences for primary consumers. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 24: 353-377. ). Influence of abiotic (temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity) and biotic factors (primary and secondary dispersers of fruits and seeds, animal predators) results in a most favorable period for seed dispersal (Rathke & Lacey 1985; Opler et al. 1976Opler PA, Frankie GM & Baker HG (1976) Rainfall as a factor in the release, timing and synchronization of anthesis by tropical trees and shrubs. Journal of Biogeography 3: 231-236. ; Schaik et al. 1993Schaik CP, Terborgh JW & Wright JS (1993) The phenology of tropical forests: adaptive significance and consequences for primary consumers. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 24: 353-377. ; Morellato et al. 2000Morellato PCL, Talora DC, Takahasi A, Bencke CC, Romera EC & Zipparro VB (2000) Phenology of Atlantic rain forest trees: a comparative study. Biotropica 32: 811-823.). Seasonality in the number of plant species bearing ripe fruits decreases from temperate to tropical forests, largely as a result of the increase in the average duration of the fruiting phenophases (Jordano 2000Jordano P (2000) Fruits and frugivory. In: Fenner M (ed.) Seeds: the ecology of regeneration in plant communities. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau Internacional, Wallingford. Pp. 125-166. ), resulting in a continuous supply of resources for animals in tropical areas (Morellato et al. 2000Morellato PCL, Talora DC, Takahasi A, Bencke CC, Romera EC & Zipparro VB (2000) Phenology of Atlantic rain forest trees: a comparative study. Biotropica 32: 811-823.; Zamith & Scarano 2004Zamith LR & Scarano FR (2004) Produção de mudas de espécies das restingas do município do Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil. Acta Botanica Brasilica 18: 161-176.; Reys et al. 2005Reys P, Galetti M, Morellato PCL & Sabino J (2005) Fenologia reprodutiva e disponibilidade de frutos de espécies arbóreas em mata ciliar no rio Formoso, Mato Grosso do Sul. Biota Neotropica 5: 309-318.; Marchioretto et al. 2007Marchioretto MS, Mauhs J & Budke JC (2007) Fenologia de espécies arbóreas zoocóricas em uma floresta psamófila no sul do Brasil. Acta Botanica Brasilica 21:193-201. ). Zoochorous species prevail in tropical environments (van der Pijl 1982van der Pijl L (1982) Principles of dispersal in higher plants. 3rd ed. Springer, Berlin.; Rathke & Lacey 1985). In the Atlantic Forest, high frequency of animal-dispersed species, specifically bird-dispersed ones, indicate that frugivorous animals are very important for the maintenance of communities (Martins et al. 2014Martins VF, Cazotto LPD & Santos FAM (2014) Dispersal spectrum of four forest types along na altitudinal ranges of the Brazilian Atlântic Rainforest. Biota Neotropica 14: 1-22.). In restinga vegetation (habitat marginal to the Brazilian Atlantic Forest), where conditions are extreme (high temperatures, steady winds, high salinity and sandy soil poor in nutrients), predominance of zoochory was also recorded (Zamith & Scarano 2004Zamith LR & Scarano FR (2004) Produção de mudas de espécies das restingas do município do Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil. Acta Botanica Brasilica 18: 161-176.; Martins et al. 2014Martins VF, Cazotto LPD & Santos FAM (2014) Dispersal spectrum of four forest types along na altitudinal ranges of the Brazilian Atlântic Rainforest. Biota Neotropica 14: 1-22.).

Here, we described the fruit morphology (size, shape, color and number of seeds) and followed up the fruiting phenology of 52 species from an area of restinga vegetation in southeastern Brazil. These gathered data support us to infer important aspects related to seed dispersion in these areas. It is noteworthy that seed dispersal plays a crucial ecological role in the maintenance of biodiversity and natural regeneration of habitats worldwide (Morellato et al. 2016Morellato PCL, Alberton B, Alvarado ST, Borges B, Buisson E, Camargo MGG, Cancian LF, Carstensen DW, Escobar DFE, Leite PTP, Mendoza I, Rocha NMWB, Soares NC, Silva TSF, Staggemeier VG, Streher AS, Vargas BC & Peres CA (2016) Linking plant phenology to conservation biology. Biological Conservation 195: 60-72. ). Despite its great importance, the connection between morphological features, dispersal patterns, and phenology of fruits in restinga ecosystem are unexplored. In this context, we aim in this study: 1- to examine the occurrence and the diversity of seed dispersal syndromes in restinga vegetation; 2- to characterize the distribution throughout the year of the different seed dispersal syndromes; 3- to investigate the relationship between the fruiting periods and climatic factors; 4- to assess the temporal availability of fruit resources for the potential dispersing fauna. In particular, we explore the coloring of the fruits by monitoring of ripeness, the presentation of colors in the plant and the distribution of fruit colors throughout the year. We expect that this study can help incrementing successful restoration and conservation actions for restinga areas, which have been under intense anthropic occupation (Rocha et al. 2007Rocha CFD, Bergallo HG, Van Sluys M, Alves MAS & Jamel CE (2007) The remnants of restinga habitats in the brazilian Atlantic Forest of Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil: habitat loss and risk of disappearance. Brazilian Journal of Biology 67: 263-273.; Marques et al. 2015Marques MCM, Silva SM & Liebsch D (2015) Coastal plain forests in southern and southeastern Brazil: ecological drivers, floristic patterns and conservation status. Brazilian Journal of Botany 38: 1-18.).

Materials and Methods

The study was conducted in restinga (sandy coastal plains) within the Environmental Protection Area of Maricá (APA of Maricá - 496 ha), Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil (22o52’–22o54’S and 42o49’–42o54’W). The climate of the region is Aw tropical humid (Alvares et al. 2014Alvares CA, Stape JL, Sentelhas PC, Gonçalves JLM & Sparovek G (2014) Koppen’s climate classification map for Brazil. Meteorologische Zeitschrift 22: 711-728. ), with the weather being wetter between October and March (warm/rainy season). We conducted the study over a 1-year period from April 2010 to March 2011. The mean annual temperature was 23.7 °C (maximum mean in February with 28.5 °C and minimum mean in June with 19.5 °C). The total precipitation was 1,168.7 mm, with 552.6 mm between October and March and 616.1 mm between April and September. We observed a water stress in February (Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia, INMET-RJ).

We carried out fruiting phenological monitoring of 402 individuals of shrubs and trees (all individuals over 50 cm in height). Plants were marked and numbered along a transect of 500 m on the internal sandy ridge (sandy soil where the vegetation grows in thickets interspersed with almost completely clear spaces), divided into 50 plots of 10 m × 10 m. Sampled species represent approximately 80% of woody species in this area (Rodarte 2008Rodarte ATA (2008) Caracterização espacial, temporal e biologia floral das espécies de restinga, com ênfase nos recursos florais. Tese Doutorado. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. 188p. ). We organized the floristic list according to Flora do Brasil (2020)Flora do Brasil (2020) Avaiable at <http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/>. Accessed on 02 February 2021.
http://floradobrasil.jbrj.gov.br/...
and The Plant List (2019)The Plant List (2019) a working list of all plant species. Available at <http://www.theplantlist.org>. Access on 5 July 2019.
http://www.theplantlist.org...
.

In this paper, we used the botanical term “fruit” in a broad sense to describe types of diaspores irrespective of their origin and structure (i.e., “true” fruit, pseudo-fruit, etc.). We collected ripe fruits from at least five individuals for each species. For each fruit we measured the length (cm) using a caliper, and we counted the number of seeds. We also registered the dehiscence (dehiscent or indehiscent) and the consistency (dry or fleshy). Dehiscent fruits with arillate seeds were regarded as fleshy fruits because they constitute a form of food resource. We classified the colors of ripe fruits of each species by human perception as black, dark brown, brown, red, dark red, yellow, orange, green, and multicolored (color of aril and/or seed contrasting with the outer or inner surfaces of fruit capsules). We followed the color change of the fruits through the course of maturation. We performed inferences about the dispersion syndrome, according to van der Pijl (1982)van der Pijl L (1982) Principles of dispersal in higher plants. 3rd ed. Springer, Berlin.. For eight species we obtained the information about fruit length, seed number, and dispersal syndrome from the literature.

The study involved only the phenophase of fruit set. Two classical methods for the phenological analysis were employed: activity and intensity percentages. Activity method (based in presence or absence of phenophase of the individuals) was used to indicate percentage of individuals in the population that were manifesting fruiting event (Bencke & Morellato 2002Bencke CSC & Morellato PC (2002) Estudo comparativo da fenologia de nove espécies arbóreas em três tipos de floresta atlântica no sudeste do Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Botânica 25: 237-248. ). We visually assessed intensity of events using a semi-quantitative scale (Fournier 1974Fournier LA (1974) Un método cuantitativo para la medición de características fenológicas en árboles. Turrialba 24: 422-423., adapted for four classes), namely: (0) absence of the event; (1) 1 to 33%; (2) 34% to 66% and (3) 67% to 100% of the canopy showing the phenophase. Each individual was evaluated weekly and scored from 0 to 3 for fruiting event during the study period. We plotted the data monthly, using the most representative score for the month. We expressed intensity of events in each month by the formula: % of intensity = (ΣFournier/3 × N) × 100), where: ΣFournier is sum of semi-quantitative data attributed to each individual; 3 is maximum value of categories adopted; and N is total number of plants evaluated (Fournier 1974Fournier LA (1974) Un método cuantitativo para la medición de características fenológicas en árboles. Turrialba 24: 422-423.).

We tested correlation (Spearman rs at a significance level of 0.05) between events of fruiting (intensity and activity of fruit set of plant community, and species grouped per syndrome) and some climatic data [precipitation (mm), day length (h), and mean, minimum and maximum temperature (oC) in studied months] (Statsoft 2005StatSoft Inc. (2005) STATISTICA (data analysis software systems). Version 7.1. Available at <www.Statsoft.com>. Access on 07 May 2019.
www.Statsoft.com...
). The National Institute of Meteorology INMET/RJ-Maricá Station provided temperature and precipitation data. We calculated day length data according to Pereira et al. (2001)Pereira MCA, Araujo DSD & Pereira OJ (2001) Estrutura de uma comunidade arbustiva da restinga de Barra de Maricá - RJ. Revista Brasileira de Botânica, São Paulo 24: 273-281. and Varejão-Silva (2000)Varejão-Silva MA (2000) Meteorologia e climatologia. Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia (INMET), Brasília. 463p..

Voucher specimen were deposited in Herbarium of Museu Nacional (R), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and Faculdade de Formação de Professores (RFFP) from Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro.

Results

In the study area, we identified 52 species (30 families), of which 42 produced fruit in the monitoring period (Tabs. 1-2). The most representative family was Myrtaceae (nine species) followed by Leguminosae (five species) (Tab. 2). Fleshy or attractive fruits, featuring zoochoric syndrome, prevailed in species of this study (77.8%); anemochoric fruits represent 13.3% of all fruits (Fig. 1; Tab. 3). Three species (6.7%) showed two types of dispersion (zoochoric and self-dispersion) and one species (4.4%) presented only self-dispersion (Fig. 1; Tab. 3).

Figure 1
a-m. Fruits of the restinga of Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – a. Protium brasiliense; b. Monteverdia obtusifolia; c. Erythroxylum ovalifolium; d. Garcinia brasiliensis; e. Gaylussacia brasiliensis; f. Ormosia arborea; g. Clusia lanceolata; h. Ouratea cuspidata; i. Myrcia ilheosensis; j. Pilosocereus arrabidae; k. Andira legalis; l. Eugenia astringens; m. Neomitranthes obscura.
Table 1
Fruiting period (only ripe fruit) in restinga of Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Intensity: 1 (◦), 2 (•), 3 (◊) adapted according to Fournier (1974).
Table 2
List of species, length fruit (cm), and number of seeds per fruit in restinga of Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mean (number of fruits), * = numerous seeds.
Table 3
Monitoring the color along the ripening stages of the fruit species studied in APA of Restinga of Maricá, RJ. GR = green; YE = yellow; OR = orange; RE = red; DR = dark red; BR = brown; DB = dark brown; BL = black; MC = multicolor; CF = Colour fruit; Co = Consistency; De = Dehiscence; I = Indehiscent; D = Dehiscent; ZO = Zoochoric; AN = Anemochoric; SD = Self-dispersal.

Fleshy fruits were recorded in 82% of the species, and indehiscent pattern (71%) was predominant (Tab. 3). Andira legalis (Fabaceae) was the only zoochoric species with dry fruit. We observed that 58% of the species studied have fruits with one or two seeds (Tab. 2).

In relation to fruits maturation, we observed that 42% (19) of species, especially the ones whose fruits seems to be dispersed by animals (Fig. 1; Tab. 3), the fruits pass through three or five hues until complete maturation, and different maturation stages (different colors) are present in the same plant (Calyptranthes brasiliensis, Eugenia astringens, Myrcia ilheosensis and Neomitranthes obscura). Some species did not change the fruit color during the maturation (e.g., Andira legalis) (brown fruits), Couepia ovalifolia and Byrsonima sericea (both with green fruits).

Considering zoochoric and zoochoric/self-dispersion fruits, there is a predominance of black in ripe fruits, taking up 39.5% of all species, followed by red and multicolored (13.2% each), yellow (10.5%), orange (7.9%), dark brown and green (5.3% each), brown and dark red (2.6% each) species. All anemochorous species have brown fruits and Ormosia arborea (self-dispersion) have multicolored, dry and dehiscent fruit. Multicolored fruits included red, white and orange (Clusia lanceolata), black, white and orange (Swartzia apetala), brown, red and black (Ormosia arborea), red and white (Monteverdia obtusifolia), reddish pink and white (Protium brasiliense), black and red (Ouratea cuspidata).

The set of plants studied showed fruit events throughout the study period (Fig. 2). Lower levels of activity and intensity were recorded in August (2.2% and 1.2%, respectively) and higher levels were recorded in January (12.7% and 6.6%, idem). In relation to zoochoric species, we observed availability and dispersing of fruits throughout the year, with higher rates of intensity and activity in the months of May and September and peaking in January. For anemochoric plants, the highest percentage of dispersal was in February (Fig. 2). Spearman correlation coefficients obtained between phenological phases (intensity and activity of fruit set of all species, of anemochoric and zoochoric species) and abiotic factors showed no significant correlation (Tab. 4).

Figure 2
Phenological events of fruit set in plant community of the restinga of Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – a. mean temperature (oC) and total precipitation (mm) for the Maricá (The climatic data of temperature and rainfall were provided by the National Institute of Meteorology INMET/RJ); b. percentage of intensity (Fournier 1974Fournier LA (1974) Un método cuantitativo para la medición de características fenológicas en árboles. Turrialba 24: 422-423.) and activity for the fruit set of all species studied; c. percentage of intensity (Fournier 1974Fournier LA (1974) Un método cuantitativo para la medición de características fenológicas en árboles. Turrialba 24: 422-423.) and activity for the fruit set of zoochoric and zoochoric/self-dispersal plants; d. percentage of intensity (Fournier 1974Fournier LA (1974) Un método cuantitativo para la medición de características fenológicas en árboles. Turrialba 24: 422-423.) and activity for fruit set of anemochoric plants.
Table 4
Spearman correlation coefficients (p < 0.05), obtained between phenological phases (levels of intensity and activity of fruit set) and abiotic factors [maximum, mean, and minimum temperature (oC), precipitation (mm), and day length measure (h)] in plant community distributed over the internal sand stream of the restinga of Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Considering the availability of fruits based in fruit color of zoochoric and self-dispersion species, we observed black and multicolored fruits throughout the year. Black fruits had higher percentages of intensity and activity in May (conspicuously the fruit set of Calyptranthes brasiliensis, Myrcia ilheoensis and Vitex polygama) and September (Eugenia umbelliflora, Guapira opposita and Neomitranthes obscura were the most expressive species). Multicolored fruits showed higher fruiting from October to March. Red and dark red fruits showed higher percentages in January, especially the species Erythroxylum ovalifolium and Alchornea triplinervea. Yellow fruits were restricted from August to January and April (Garcinia brasiliensis, Cathedra rubricaulis and Cupania emarginata). Green fruits were restricted from January to March (only Byrsonima sericea). Orange fruits had higher percentages in December with more expressive fruit set of Allagoptera arenaria and Myrciaria floribunda. Brown and dark brown fruits were present from June to March, with low percentages (Fig. 3).

Figure 3
Phenological events of the fruit set separated by colors in the plant community of the restinga of Maricá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Discussion

Fleshy fruits, indehiscent pattern, and colored, characterizing animal dispersal syndrome, predominate in restinga of Maricá. Zoochoric fruits are the majority in many ecosystems (Jordano 2000Jordano P (2000) Fruits and frugivory. In: Fenner M (ed.) Seeds: the ecology of regeneration in plant communities. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau Internacional, Wallingford. Pp. 125-166. ), and it is estimated that in tropical forests between 50% and 90% of all trees are zoochorical (Jordano 2000Jordano P (2000) Fruits and frugivory. In: Fenner M (ed.) Seeds: the ecology of regeneration in plant communities. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau Internacional, Wallingford. Pp. 125-166. ; Fleming 1987Fleming TH (1987) Patterns of tropical vertebrate frugivore diversity. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 18: 91-109.). The frequency of 84.5% (77.8% zoochoric and 6.7% zoochoric/self-dispersion) here observed match with the frequency registered for the Atlantic Forest, which varies from 75 to 91% (Zamith & Scarano 2004Zamith LR & Scarano FR (2004) Produção de mudas de espécies das restingas do município do Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil. Acta Botanica Brasilica 18: 161-176.; Almeida Neto et al. 2008Almeida-Neto M, Campassi F, Galetti M, Jordano P & Oliveira-Filho A (2008) Vertebrate dispersal syndromes along the Atlantic forest: broad-scale patterns and macroecological correlates. Global Ecology and Biogeography 17: 503-513.; Martins et al. 2014Martins VF, Cazotto LPD & Santos FAM (2014) Dispersal spectrum of four forest types along na altitudinal ranges of the Brazilian Atlântic Rainforest. Biota Neotropica 14: 1-22.).

In restinga areas, animals that feed on fruit comprise resident and migratory birds, small mammals, lizards, and anuras (Cerqueira et al. 1993; Fialho et al. 2000Fialho RF, Rocha CFD & Vrcibradic D (2000) Feeding Ecology of Tropidurus torquatus: Ontogenetic Shift in Plant Consumption and Seasonal Trends in Diet. Journal of Herpetology 34: 325-330.; Gomes 2006Gomes VSM (2006) Variação espacial e dieta de aves terrestres na restinga de Jurubatiba, RJ. Tese de Doutorado. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 98p. ; Silva & Britto-Pereira 2006Silva HR & Britto-Pereira MC (2006) How much fruit do fruit-eating frogs eat? An investigation on the diet of Xenohyla truncata (Lissamphibia: Anura: Hylidae). Journal of Zoology 270: 692-698.). In restinga of Jurubatiba (Rio de Janeiro state), Gomes (2006)Gomes VSM (2006) Variação espacial e dieta de aves terrestres na restinga de Jurubatiba, RJ. Tese de Doutorado. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 98p. registered fruits of 35 species which are consumed by birds and concluded that most of the resident and migratory birds of restinga are frugivorous. Among all plant species registered by Gomes (2006)Gomes VSM (2006) Variação espacial e dieta de aves terrestres na restinga de Jurubatiba, RJ. Tese de Doutorado. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 98p. , 13 also occur in Maricá (including O. notata and P. arrabidae), likely also used as food by birds in this area. Cerqueira et al. (1994)Cerqueira R, Fernandez faz, Gentile R, Guapyassú SMS & Santori RT (1994) Estrutura e variação da comunidade de pequenos mamíferos da Restinga da Barra de Maricá, RJ. III Simpósio de Ecossistemas da Costa Brasileira, ACIESP. Academia de Ciências de São Paulo, São Paulo. Pp. 15-32. point out that of the ten species of small mammals studied in restinga of Maricá, eight feed on fruits, particularly the marsupial species Philander frenatus (Olfers 1818), which feed on fruits of Aechmea, Erythroxylum, Passiflora, Paullinia and Pilosocereus (Santori et al. 1997Santori RT, Moraes DA, Grelle CEV & Cerqueira R (1997) Natural diet at a restinga forest and laboratory food preferences of the Opossum Philander frenata in Brazil. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 32: 12-16.). Erythroxylum ovalifolium represent 50% of diet of the lizard species Tropidurus torquatus (Wied 1820) in restinga of Maricá (Fialho et al. 2000Fialho RF, Rocha CFD & Vrcibradic D (2000) Feeding Ecology of Tropidurus torquatus: Ontogenetic Shift in Plant Consumption and Seasonal Trends in Diet. Journal of Herpetology 34: 325-330.). Fruits of Erythroxylum ovalifolium and Monteverdia obtusifolia are important components of the diet of the threatened Anura species Xenohyla truncata (Izecksohn 1959), which inhabits restingas of Rio de Janeiro, including Maricá (Silva & Britto-Pereira 2006Silva HR & Britto-Pereira MC (2006) How much fruit do fruit-eating frogs eat? An investigation on the diet of Xenohyla truncata (Lissamphibia: Anura: Hylidae). Journal of Zoology 270: 692-698.). The same authors report that X. truncata lives in bromeliads Neoregelia cruenta and suggest this species pass seeds through its feces to bromeliads, where M. obtusifolia seedlings are easily observed (personal observation).

A variety of colors in ripe fruits was recorded in restinga of Maricá, with a predominance of black, within 39.5% of the species, followed by red and multicolored (13.2% each). Red and black fruits are dominant in many tropical and temperate ecosystems (Wheelwright & Janson 1985Wheelwright N & Janson CH (1985) Colors of fruit displays of bird-dispersed plants in two tropical forests. The American Naturalist 126: 777-799.; Willson & Whelan 1990Willson MF & Whelan CJ (1990) The evolution of fruit color in fleshy-fruited plants. The American Naturalist 136: 790-809.; Galetti et al. 2011Galetti M, Pizo MA & Morellato LPC (2011) Diversity of functional traits of fleshy fruits in a species-rich Atlantic rain forest. Biota Neotropica 11: 181-193.) and, together with multicolored fruits, have been linked to consumption mainly by birds (Schaefer & Schmidt 2004Schaefer HM & Schmidt V (2004) Detectability and content as opposing signal characteristics in fruits. London: Proceeding Royal Society London B 271: 370-373. ; Galetti 2002Galetti M (2002) Seed dispersal of mimetic fruits: Parasitism, Mutualism, aposematism or exaptation? In: Levey DJ, Silva WF & Galetti M (eds.) Seed dispersal and frugivory: ecology, evolution and conservation. CAB. International Wallingford, New York. Pp. 177-191.; Galetti et al. 2011Galetti M, Pizo MA & Morellato LPC (2011) Diversity of functional traits of fleshy fruits in a species-rich Atlantic rain forest. Biota Neotropica 11: 181-193.; Valenta et al. 2018Valenta K, Kalbitzer U, Razamandimby D, Omeja P, Ayasse M, Chapman CA & Nevo O (2018) The evolution of fruit color: phylogeny, abiotic factors and the role of mutualists. Scientific Report 8: 14302.). According to Schmidt et al. (2004)Schmidt V, Schaefer HM & Winkler H (2004) Conspicuousness, not color as foraging cue in plant-animal interactions. Oikos 106: 551-557. the prevalence of black and red colors in plant communities seems to be explained by their greater conspicuity against a natural background (immature fruits of different colors, leaves, bark, petiole, etc.) when compared to other colors, increasing chances of being detected by frugivores, mainly birds.

When we investigated, more specifically, color variation during fruit maturation, we observed that, in 42% of zoochoric species, individual fruits go through three to five hues until complete maturation, and different maturation stages (different colors) can be observed in the same plant. This characteristic was common in some species of Myrtaceae that pass through several colors until complete maturation. In N. obscura, for example, plants display fruits of different colors (orange, red, dark red and black), representing the different stages of maturation. Fruits often change color as they mature, and slow and gradual fruit maturation resulting in plants with fruits of different colors may be an important strategy to increase fruit display contrast and influence the detection of these fruits by birds (Willson & Melampy 1983Willson MF & Melampy MN (1983) The effect of bicolored fruit displays on fruit removal by avian frugivores. Oikos 41: 27-31. ; Wheelwright & Janson 1985Wheelwright N & Janson CH (1985) Colors of fruit displays of bird-dispersed plants in two tropical forests. The American Naturalist 126: 777-799.). Stiles (1982)Stiles EW (1982) Fruit flags: two hypotheses. The American Naturalist 120: 500-509. suggested plants with immature and ripe colored fruits may function as a pre-ripening fruit flag, a sign that mature fruits will become available over time.

A constant supply of mature fruits was observed in the studied community. The highest percentages were registered in January/February, but they were not much different from the other months. Unlike flowering (Rodarte 2008Rodarte ATA (2008) Caracterização espacial, temporal e biologia floral das espécies de restinga, com ênfase nos recursos florais. Tese Doutorado. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. 188p. ), there were no significant correlations between fruiting phenophase activity and intensity percentages, and abiotic factors tested (precipitation, temperature and length of day). Morellato et al. (2000)Morellato PCL, Talora DC, Takahasi A, Bencke CC, Romera EC & Zipparro VB (2000) Phenology of Atlantic rain forest trees: a comparative study. Biotropica 32: 811-823. also suggested that climatic factors do not limit fruit production in Atlantic forest trees. For the restinga community studied, the fruiting pattern observed also contrasts with flowering due to the lower seasonality and intensity of events (Rodarte 2008Rodarte ATA (2008) Caracterização espacial, temporal e biologia floral das espécies de restinga, com ênfase nos recursos florais. Tese Doutorado. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. 188p. ). Phenological studies in Atlantic forest habitats have also demonstrated non-seasonal patterns in fruit production (Talora & Morellato 2000Talora DC & Morellato LPC (2000) Fenologia de espécies arbóreas em floresta de planície litorânea do sudeste do Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Botânica 23: 13-26.; Morellato et al. 2000Morellato PCL, Talora DC, Takahasi A, Bencke CC, Romera EC & Zipparro VB (2000) Phenology of Atlantic rain forest trees: a comparative study. Biotropica 32: 811-823.; Medeiros et al. 2007Medeiros DPW, Lopes AV & Zickela CS (2007) Phenology of woody species in tropical coastal vegetation, northeastern Brazil. Flora 202: 513-520.). In both the Atlantic rain forest and restinga, flowering is more seasonal, concentrated in the warm/rainy season (October to March) (Morellato et al. 2000; Rodarte 2008Rodarte ATA (2008) Caracterização espacial, temporal e biologia floral das espécies de restinga, com ênfase nos recursos florais. Tese Doutorado. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. 188p. ). These data reinforces the idea that the biotic factors, such as seed dispersers (in the case of zoocoric fruits) may have relevance in determining fruit ripening and seed dispersal periods in coastal environments like Atlantic forest and restinga vegetation (Morellato & Leitão-Filho 1991Morellato LPC & Leitão-Filho HF (1991) História natural da Serra do Japi: ecologia e preservação de uma área florestal no sudeste do Brasil. Editora da Universidade Estadual de Campinas/FAPESP, Campinas. 321p.; Talora & Morellato 2000Talora DC & Morellato LPC (2000) Fenologia de espécies arbóreas em floresta de planície litorânea do sudeste do Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Botânica 23: 13-26.; Morellato et al. 2000Morellato PCL, Talora DC, Takahasi A, Bencke CC, Romera EC & Zipparro VB (2000) Phenology of Atlantic rain forest trees: a comparative study. Biotropica 32: 811-823.).

Zoochoric fruits of different colors are found throughout the year in restinga of Maricá. Black, red and multicolor fruits, commonly associated with dispersion by birds (Willson & Whelan 1990; Valenta et al. 2018Valenta K, Kalbitzer U, Razamandimby D, Omeja P, Ayasse M, Chapman CA & Nevo O (2018) The evolution of fruit color: phylogeny, abiotic factors and the role of mutualists. Scientific Report 8: 14302.), were released in fruiting phenophases with higher levels of intensity and activity throughout the year, compared to fruits of the other colors. Gonzaga et al. (2000)Gonzaga LP, Castiglioni GDA & Reis HBR (2000) Avifauna das restingas do Sudeste: estado do conhecimento e potencial para futuros estudos. In: Esteves FA & Lacerda LD (eds.) Ecologia de restingas e lagoas costeiras. NUPEM\UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro. Pp. 151-163. found significant seasonal variation in composition of the avifauna in restinga of Maricá. Gomes (2006)Gomes VSM (2006) Variação espacial e dieta de aves terrestres na restinga de Jurubatiba, RJ. Tese de Doutorado. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 98p. concluded that constant supply of fruits is important for maintenance of the community of resident and visiting birds in restinga of Jurubatiba. The other colors (mainly yellow and green) are commonly associated with the dispersion of mammals (Willson & Whelan 1990; Valenta et al. 2018Valenta K, Kalbitzer U, Razamandimby D, Omeja P, Ayasse M, Chapman CA & Nevo O (2018) The evolution of fruit color: phylogeny, abiotic factors and the role of mutualists. Scientific Report 8: 14302.). Species with fruits of these colors, although they showed less intense fruiting phenophases and a little more restricted availability throughout the year, also constitute an ample supply of edible fruits. Our results points that vegetation of restinga of Maricá presents fruits very different in colors and these colors are well distributed throughout the seasons, meaning a constant and reliable supply of fruits to the dispersing fauna, especially birds and mammals.

Myrtaceae stands out in this study, since there is always a species of Myrtaceae producing fruits throughout the year. Likewise, in Maricá, Staggemeier et al. (2017)Staggemeier VG, Cazetta E & Morellato LP (2017) Hyper-dominance in fruit production in the Brazilian Atlantic rain forest: The functional role of plants in sustaining frugivores. Biotropica 49: 71-82. also highlighted the family for offering a wide morphological diversity of fruits to different frugivore guilds throughout the year, in an area of restinga vegetation in São Paulo state. According to Rodarte (2008)Rodarte ATA (2008) Caracterização espacial, temporal e biologia floral das espécies de restinga, com ênfase nos recursos florais. Tese Doutorado. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. 188p. , Myrtaceae is the family with highest species richness and highest value of phytosociological importance (37.2%) in restinga of Maricá. The fruit traits of Myrtaceae species (fleshy, indehiscent, different colors and sizes) highlights the importance of this family as a year round resource for local fauna, especially frugivorous fauna.

The main fruiting peak of anemochoric species occurred in the hottest and rainy season of the year, although no significant correlation with abiotic factors evaluated (precipitation, temperature and day length). The peak in the hot and rainy season displayed by species with wind dispersion owes mainly to the activity and intensity of Agarista revoluta, Pleroma gaudichaudianum and Marcetia taxifolia fruiting. It should be noted that the peak of fruiting of the anemochoric species in the warmest and rainiest season recorded in this study coincides with the blooming peak of species pollinated by the wind, in the same community. Myrsine parvifolia, Alchornea triplinervia and species of Cyperaceae and Poaceae also bloom in the period from October to March (Rodarte 2008Rodarte ATA (2008) Caracterização espacial, temporal e biologia floral das espécies de restinga, com ênfase nos recursos florais. Tese Doutorado. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. 188p. ; Albuquerque et al. 2013Albuquerque AA, Lima hA, Gonçalves-Esteves V, Benevides CR & Rodarte ATA (2013) Myrsine parvifolia (Primulaceae) in sandy coastal plains marginal to Atlantic rainforest: a case of pollination by wind or by both wind and insects? Brazilian Journal of Botany 36: 65-73.). Winds, low humidity and higher temperatures are constant in the restinga ecosystem, when compared to other habitats of Atlantic Forest (Scarano 2002Scarano FR (2002) Structure, function and floristic relationships of plant communities in stressful habitats marginal to the brazilian atlantic rain forest. Annals of Botany 90: 517-24.), mainly in areas closest to the sea (Staggemeier & Morellato 2011Staggemeier VG & Morellato LPC (2011) Reproductive phenology of coastal plain Atlantic forest vegetation: comparisons from seashore to foothills. International Journal Biometeorol 55: 843-854.). The species analyzed in the present study are frequent in more open physiognomies (open shrub), thus allowing the dispersal of anemochoric seeds throughout the seasons.

We highlight that restinga environments present many key species for the germination of other plants, such as bromeliads (nurse plants). Restingas have relatively low rate of free water available in the soil (Zaluar & Scarano 2000Zaluar HLT & Scarano FR (2000) Facilitação em restingas de moitas: um século de buscas por espécies focais. In: Esteves FA & Lacerda LD (eds.) Ecologia de restingas e lagoas costeiras, NUPEM/ UFRJ. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. Pp. 3-23. ; Scarano 2002Scarano FR (2002) Structure, function and floristic relationships of plant communities in stressful habitats marginal to the brazilian atlantic rain forest. Annals of Botany 90: 517-24.) and success in germination and development of seedlings in restinga has been demonstrated to be higher in the microhabitat inside of the bromeliad rather than in the sand around the plant (Fialho 1990Fialho RF (1990) Seed dispersal by a lizard and a treefrog - effect of dispersal site on seed survivorship. Biotropica 22: 423-424.; Zaluar 1997Zaluar HLT (1997) Espécies focais e a formação de moitas na restinga aberta de Clusia, Carapebus, RJ. Dissertação de Mestrado. Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro. 93p.). Bromeliads can store a considerable amount of free water (Cogliatti-Carvalho et al. 2010Cogliatti-Carvalho L, Rocha-Pessôa TC, Nunes-Freitas AF & Rocha CFD (2010) Volume de água armazenado no tanque de bromélias, em restingas da costa brasileira. Acta Botanica Brasilica 24: 84-95.), and thus represent a relatively stable microhabitat since tanks tend to remain with water even during periods of drought (Krügel & Richter 1995Krügel P & Richter S (1995) Syncope antenori - a bromeliad breeding frog with free-swimming, nonfeeding tadpoles (Anura, Microhylidae). Copeia 95: 955-963.). In fact, seedlings of various species such as Monteverdia obtusifolia, Guapira opposita, Myrtaceae, Clusiaceae, among others, are easily found within bromeliads (personal observation). Studies involving recruitment throughout seasons and its relationship with nurse plants and seed dispersers are required in this ecosystem, with flora found in sandy, permeable and nutrient-poor soils.

Our study on the fruiting phenology and the characterization of the fruits of 52 species from an area of restinga vegetation shows a predominance of fruits with zoochoric characteristics, diverse in colors and sizes and available throughout the year for a potentially rich fauna of seed dispersers. In restinga, fruiting events are, however, less seasonal and intense than flowering events and seems to be not limited by climatic factors. Studies on fruiting phenology, dispersion and seeds germination must be incentivated as they can help incrementing successful restoration and conservation actions for restinga areas.

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to PIBIC-UFRJ, for the scholarship to Patrick de Oliveira.

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Edited by

Area Editor: Dr. Leandro Freitas

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    11 Apr 2022
  • Date of issue
    2022

History

  • Received
    25 Oct 2019
  • Accepted
    02 May 2021
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