In a unique phenomenon restricted to the ever wet forests of Southeast Asia, hundreds of species from dozens of plant families reproduce synchronously at irregular, multi-year intervals. The proximate environmental cues that synchronize these general flowering events have not been evaluated systematically because there have been no long-term, high temporal resolution, species-level records from the region. We present 13 years of weekly flowering records for five Shorea species as well as daily temperature and rainfall records from the Pasoh Forest Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia. We constructed models to evaluate hypothesized relationships between flowering and cool temperature, drought, and additive and synergistic effects of cool temperature and drought for each species. Model parameters include periods of time for floral cue accumulation and flower development and temperature and/or rainfall thresholds required for floral initiation. Parameters estimated using flowering observations from 2001 to 2011 were used to forecast flowering for 2011–2014. We show that drought and cool temperatures acting synergistically best explain the timing of flowering events for all Shorea species in the section Mutica and forecast the largest general flowering event accurately. Periods estimated for signal accumulation ranged from 54 to 90 days among species. Periods estimated for flowers to develop ranged between 43 and 96 days and closely followed the interspecific sequence of flowering in the Shorea species. Drought and temperature thresholds also varied among species, with Shorea maxwelliana requiring the most severe drought and Shorea leprosula the lowest temperatures. Synthesis. Our results indicate that cool temperatures and low rainfall occurring on seasonal time-scales of about 2–3 months rather than brief cold snaps or brief droughts best explain general flowering in Shorea species at the Pasoh Forest Reserve. Low rainfall is equally likely in winter (December–February) and summer (July–August) and cool temperatures are most likely in winter at Pasoh, which explains why general flowering events are restricted to spring and fall, with more frequent and stronger flowering in spring. In addition, species-specific sensitivity to environmental cues suggests that future climate change will have differential impacts on the frequency of reproduction, with potential consequences for regeneration of these dominant species of lowland tropical forests.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science