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Modifications of the rainforest frugivore community are associated with reduced seed removal at the community level

Citation

Boissier, Olivier (2020), Modifications of the rainforest frugivore community are associated with reduced seed removal at the community level, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.tmpg4f4vc

Abstract

Tropical rainforests worldwide are under increasing pressure from human activities, which are altering key ecosystem processes such as plant-animal interactions. However, while the direct impact of anthropogenic disturbance on animal communities has been well studied, the consequences of such defaunation for mutualistic interactions such as seed dispersal remains chiefly understood at the plant species level. We asked whether communities of endozoochorous tree species had altered seed removal in forests affected by hunting and logging and if this could be related to modifications of the frugivore community. At two contrasting forest sites in French Guiana, Nouragues (protected) and Montagne de Kaw (hunted and partly logged), we focused on four families of animal-dispersed trees (Sapotaceae, Myristicaceae, Burseraceae and Fabaceae) which represent 88 % of all endozoochorous trees which were fruiting at the time and location of the study.  We assessed the abundance of the seed dispersers and predators of these four focal families by conducting diurnal distance sampling along line transects. Densities of several key seed dispersers such as large-bodied primates were greatly reduced at Montagne de Kaw, where the specialist frugivore Ateles paniscus is probably extinct. In parallel, we estimated seed removal rates from fruit and seed counts conducted in one-square-meter quadrats placed on the ground beneath fruiting trees. Seed removal rates dropped from 77 % at Nouragues to 47 % at Montagne de Kaw, confirming that the loss of frugivores associated with human disturbance impacts seed removal at the community level. In contrast to Sapotaceae, whose seeds are dispersed by mammals only, weaker declines in seed removal for Burseraceae and Myristicaceae suggest that some compensation may occur for these bird- and mammal-dispersed families, possibly because of the high abundance of toucans at the disturbed site. The defaunation process currently occurring across many tropical forests could dramatically reduce the diversity of entire communities of animal-dispersed trees through seed removal limitation.

Methods

See Methods in Ecological Applications article of the same title (Boissier et al. 2020)

Usage Notes

Three datasets are included: line transect surveys of frugivorous and granivorous mammals and birds; fruit consumption of Sapotaceae; seed removal of all focal families.