Cattle affect regeneration of the palm species Attalea princeps in a Bolivian forest–savanna mosaic

Hordijk, Iris; Meijer, Fabian; Nissen, Esther; Boorsma, Tjalle; Poorter, Lourens


Attalea princeps is an important palm species that shapes the forest–savanna mosaic in Beni, Bolivia, as it dominates the two principal forest landscape elements (forest islands and gallery forest), and provides a vital microhabitat, food, and nesting source for numerous plant and animal species. The forest–savanna mosaic is used for extensive grazing, and the palm population is declining on the forest islands due to a low regeneration rate, which threatens the maintenance of this landscape. We therefore examined the (a)biotic factors that influence the population structure of Attalea in the centers and edges of forest islands and gallery forests. Ninety-one 0.1-ha plots were established, and 500 palm adults and 3,700 juveniles were measured for their size, health condition, and fire damage. For each plot, habitat characteristics, such as landscape position, grazing pressure, and soil conditions, were measured. Attalea population density was significantly lower on the forest islands than in the gallery forests, especially in the juvenile life stage. A structural equation model showed that juvenile density is positively related to the health condition of juveniles and amount of fruits present, where the amount of fruits is positively affected by the condition of adults. Juvenile density is negatively influenced by grazing, affecting the health condition of the juvenile, as well as organic matter and phosphate availability in the soil. Therefore, it is recommended to decrease the grazing pressure by decreasing livestock densities, fencing off vulnerable forest islands, or by rotating cattle.Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.