Limited effectiveness of artificial bird perches for the establishment of seedlings and the restoration of Brazil's Atlantic Forest
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Brazil's Atlantic Forest biome is severely degraded and fragmented throughout its range. Developing effective techniques to restore pasture and agriculture back to native vegetation is therefore a priority for legal and conservation purposes. In this study, we evaluate the ability of artificial bird perches to enhance the arrival of new seeds and seedling establishment in a degraded, semi-deciduous seasonal portion of the Atlantic Forest in southern Brazil. Specifically, we assess the influence of previous land use and habitat types on the abundance, species richness and ecological traits of bird-dispersed seeds, as well as on seedling establishment. Eight sampling sites were established, each containing one unit with seed traps and restoration plots under artificial perches and one similar unit without the perches. These sites were located in pasture and agriculture, distributed between riparian and sub-montane areas. Monthly sampling was conducted over two years between December 2005 and November 2007, resulting in the evaluation of 25,755 seeds and 56 endozoochoric seed species. The most abundant species were the pioneers Cecropia pachystachya Trecul and Solanum americanum Mill. Experimental units with perches received significantly more seeds than control units. Moreover, seed arrival was higher in sub-montane areas and on former pasture sites. Species richness followed a similar pattern of higher seed arrival, but there was no effect of vegetation type. Ecological characteristics of seeds were associated with land use type: former pastures received more tree seeds and pioneer species than expected by chance. Seedling establishment was very low in all treatments, with only eight seedlings established in perch plots by the end of the experiment. We conclude that despite artificial perches significantly increasing the arrival of endozoochoric seeds onto degraded lands, seedling establishment is drastically limited in these areas, compromising the efficacy of this technique for restoration purposes. (C) 2016 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.