Importance of bird traits for seed dispersal patterns of co-fruiting trees in a patchy forest.

Research paper by Ning N Li, Zheng Z Wang, Shuai S Zhang, Chuan C Yan, Xin-Hai XH Li, Chang-Hu CH Lu

Indexed on: 27 Dec '18Published on: 27 Dec '18Published in: Integrative Zoology


Habitat fragmentation is one of the most important drivers of change in biodiversity globally. Seed dispersal by birds is crucial for tree regeneration in remnant patchy forests, yet how bird traits could affect seed dispersal pattern in patchy forests is still not understood. We studied to what extent bird traits affect seed-removal networks and whether these traits affect seed deposition and seedling recruitment for three co-fruiting tree species-Taxus chinensis, Cinnamomum bodinieri, and Machilus thunbergii-in a patchy forest. Seventeen, eight, and ten bird species were recorded foraging seeds of T. chinensis, M. thunbergii, and C. bodinieri, respectively. Frequency of bird visitation increased with tail length, wing length and body length. Furthermore, bird body length, bill length, body weight, and wing length were important in the strength of the seed removal network. After foraging, six bird species exhibited different microhabitat utilization and their perching frequency increased with bird weight and tarsus length. As a consequence, frequency of habitat use, bird length and tarsus length were important in determining the number of deposited seeds. For seedling recruitment, seedling number increased with bird tarsus length and weight, but decreased with wing length. Overall, our results showed that various bird traits not only affected seed removal, but also influenced the subsequent processes of seed deposition and seedling distribution in a patchy forest. It also highlighted the importance of large-bodied birds for a seed removal network and for plant recruitment and points toward the prioritization of these birds for protection in remnant patchy forests. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.