Leaf litter is essential for seed survival of the endemic endangered tree Pouteria splendens (Sapotaceae) from central Chile
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Pouteria splendens (A.DC.) Kuntze, the Chilean lúcumo, is an endemic tree and the only member of the Sapotaceae family in Chile. It is considered an endangered species as a consequence of its restricted distribution and small population size. Currently, individuals of P. splendens are immersed in a heterogeneous landscape with rocky mounds and plains located in areas densely populated by humans. Natural regeneration in the species seems to be low, despite the fact that plants are able to produce fruits. The species produces brightly colored fleshy drupes. There is no information about the dispersal pattern and the fate of the seeds. In this work we investigate (i) the seed dispersal pattern and (ii) the effect of tree canopy and the presence of leaf litter on seed survival, both in rocky mounds and plains. Results indicated an extremely low distance of seed dispersal, with most of the seeds falling down under the canopy. Seed survival under the canopy without leaf litter was very low and even zero in rocky mounds. Nevertheless, the presence of leaf litter covering the seeds increased survival in both habitats. Outside the canopy, seed survival only increased in plains. We suggest that future conservation programs should focus on protecting both adult plants and leaf litter under trees.