4 years ago

Synergistic effects of seed disperser and predator loss on recruitment success and long-term consequences for carbon stocks in tropical rainforests

Mauro Galetti, Laurence Culot, Hilton Thadeu Zarate Couto, João Luis Ferreira Batista, Carolina Bello
The extinction of large frugivores has consequences for the recruitment of large-seeded plants with potential lasting effects on carbon storage in tropical rainforests. However, previous studies relating frugivore defaunation to changes in carbon storage ignore potential compensation by redundant frugivores and the effects of seed predators on plant recruitment. Based on empirical data of the recruitment success of a large-seeded hardwood tree species (Cryptocarya mandioccana, Lauraceae) across a defaunation gradient of seed dispersers and predators, we show that defaunation increases both seed dispersal limitation and seed predation. Depending on the level of seed predator loss, plant recruitment is reduced by 70.7–94.9% as a result of the loss of seed dispersers. The loss of large seed predators increases the net seed mortality by 7–30% due to the increased abundance of small granivorous rodents. The loss of large seed dispersers can be buffered by the compensatory effects of smaller frugivores in seed removal, but it is not sufficient to prevent a decrease in plant recruitment. We show that the conservation of both seed predators and dispersers is necessary for the recruitment of large-seeded plants. Since these plants contribute substantially to carbon stocks, defaunation can jeopardize the maintenance of tropical forest carbon storage.

Publisher URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-08222-4

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-08222-4

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