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Agouti reintroduction recovers seed dispersal of a large-seeded tropical tree

Citation

Mittelman, Pedro; Kreischer, Catharina; S Pires, Alexandra; A S Fernandez, Fernando (2020), Agouti reintroduction recovers seed dispersal of a large-seeded tropical tree, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.djh9w0vwq

Abstract

The aim of animal reintroductions has mainly been species recovery; only few reintroduction initiatives focus on ecosystem restoration. Therefore, reintroduction consequences on ecological interactions are seldom assessed. We used the interaction between a reintroduced population of agoutis (Dasyprocta leporina) and a vulnerable tropical endemic tree (Joannesia princeps) to examine reintroduction effects on seed dispersal and seedling establishment. To test the outcomes of this interaction we tracked seeds of J. princeps in two adjacent forest areas with and without reintroduced agoutis. We also assessed if dispersal distances affected seedling survival. To determine seed fate and dispersal distance we used spool-and-line tracking, together with camera traps to identify dispersers. Agoutis were the only species removing J. princeps seeds, thus dispersal only occurred where agoutis had been reintroduced; in the area without agoutis, all seeds remained intact on the soil, even one year after the experiment’s beginning. At the reintroduction area, most seeds were preyed upon by agoutis but 7% remained dispersed and 2% germinated after ten months. Only seeds buried by agoutis were able to germinate. Most dispersed seeds were disperse 15 m or farther and longer dispersal distances benefited J. princeps, since seedlings farther from a conspecific adult tree had greater survival probability. Agoutis were also seen burying seeds of two other plant species; these mammals have the potential to benefit dozens of large-seeded species in our study system. Agouti reintroduction thus exemplifies the value of trophic rewilding programs to re-establish ecological interactions and restore ecosystem functioning.

Methods

Data and code about seed dispersal of Joannesia princeps by agoutis