Seed traits and tropical arboreal species conservation: a case study of a highly diverse tropical humid forest region in Southern Costa Rica

Tropical areas are vital for conserving endangered tree species. However, barriers to the propagation and storage of plant material still limit preservation outcomes. Seed traits are essential in conservation but have rarely been applied in the tropics. In this work, we compile information about the germination and seed desiccation tolerance behaviour of 953 arboreal species from the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. We analysed how those traits are related to the growing strata, seed size, and dispersal mode and how they can be used to improve conservation initiatives based on the species distribution, abundance, extinction risk, and ex situ cultivation. Over a third of the species are probably recalcitrant but this number increase to almost half among the endangered and endemic ones. Most species have seeds dispersed by animals, but wind dispersal is usually orthodox and dominant in secondary forests. All species with tiny seeds and most understorey ones with small seeds are orthodox. Approximately half of the species have dormant seeds, while nearly one-third of nondormant species have cohorts with extended germination. Almost half of the species are conserved ex situ; however, several endangered, endemics could be expected to be considered exceptional. Seed traits could target orthodox species for seed banking in tropical forests, including the potential of secondary forests and a subset of oligarch species. For the recalcitrant ones, approaches based on the risk of extinction, distribution, abundance, and ex situ status allow for prioritizing collection and conservation strategies. Under this approach, we develop a list with priority species.
© The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Biodiversity and Conservation, 2023, available online at: . Keywords: ex situ conservation; germination phenology; orthodox and recalcitrant seeds; seed dormancy; tropical plant diversity; Costa Rica.
Ley-López, J.M., Wawrzyniak, M.K., Chacón-Madrigal, E. et al. Seed traits and tropical arboreal species conservation: a case study of a highly diverse tropical humid forest region in Southern Costa Rica. Biodivers Conserv 32, 1573–1590 (2023).