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Data from: Gardeners of the forest: hornbills govern the spatial distribution of large seeds

Citation

Naniwadekar, Rohit; Mishra, Charudutt; Isvaran, Kavita; Datta, Aparajita (2021), Data from: Gardeners of the forest: hornbills govern the spatial distribution of large seeds, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.qrfj6q5gq

Abstract

Seed dispersal by frugivores is vital to the maintenance of tree diversity in tropical forests. However, determining the influence of different frugivores over the distribution of their food plants is difficult, given the complexity of these interactions in the tropics. Consequently, most studies have been restricted to small scales, examining seed dispersal and establishment associated with nests, roosts or fruiting trees. Here, we evaluate the role of frugivorous hornbills in dispersing seeds at spatial scales of 1 ha. We monitored hornbills and seed rain at a tropical forest site in north-east India. We quantified the abundance of hornbill food plants and recruits of large-seeded plants. We estimated removal rates of dispersed, large seeds to determine post-dispersal seed fate. We found that the distribution of large-seeded canopy food plants influenced the distribution of the relatively abundant Rhyticeros undulatus. The overall distribution of hornbills resulted in spatially-contagious seed rain patterns for the large-seeded plant species. Patches with canopy food plants had a higher recruit diversity. Our results show a positive feedback between distribution of rare but important hornbill food plants, hornbills and distribution of seeds and saplings of large-seeded plants in the landscape. Widespread loss of hornbills due to hunting and habitat loss in the region, have likely disrupted these feedback mechanisms that are critical for tree species regeneration.

Funding

Rufford Small Grants

International Foundation of Science

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

Rufford Small Grants