Data from: Forest disturbance and seasonal food availability influence a conditional seed dispersal mutualism
Aliyu, Babale et al. (2018), Data from: Forest disturbance and seasonal food availability influence a conditional seed dispersal mutualism, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.c377tq8
The interaction between granivorous scatter-hoarding mammals and plants is a conditional mutualism: scatter-hoarders consume seeds (acting as predators), but the movement of seed by scatter-hoarders may contribute to dispersal (acting as mutualists). Understanding the ecological factors that shape this relationship is highly relevant in anthropogenically disturbed tropical forests where large-bodied frugivores are extirpated. In such forests, large-seeded trees that once depended on these frugivores for dispersal may now only have scatter-hoarders as prospective dispersers. We studied Carapa oreophila (Meliaceae) in an Afromontane forest, to test the hypotheses that the proportion of seeds immediately consumed or hoarded (dispersed) would vary over a disturbance gradient. Temporal replication also afforded exploration of how habitat effects might vary with food availability. Using a Bayesian framework, we demonstrate that seeds were more likely to be hoarded in less disturbed forest, irrespective of temporal variation in food abundance. In contrast, forest disturbance only appeared to increase seed predation in temporal replicates that coincided with sustained food availability. These results highlight the potential variability in the dynamics between plants and scatter-hoarders over fine temporal scales, elucidating possible ecological scenarios where scatter-hoarders might act as mutualists (contributing positively to plant recruitment). Our study also fills important knowledge gaps about the importance of scatter-hoarders as dispersers in tropical forests depleted of large-bodied frugivores, particularly in Africa where scatter-hoarding mutualisms have not been extensively studied.