Patch size, shape and edge distance influence seed predation on a palm species in the Atlantic forest

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Seed predation is an important ecological process that affects the abundance, diversity and distribution of plant species, and it is known to be influenced by defaunation and forest fragmentation. Most studies on seed predation in human-modified landscapes do not take into account the different spatial scales in which this process operates. In this study, we evaluated how variables at three distinct spatial scales affected the seed predation of a palm that provides a keystone resource to the frugivore community, the queen palm Syagrus romanzoffiana. Thirteen landscapes that vary in forest cover, number of fragments and patch sizes were sampled in the Brazilian Atlantic forest. We also evaluated the contribution of the three main groups of seed predators: squirrels, terrestrial rodents and invertebrates. Our results indicate that seed predation is more affected by fragment and local variables than by landscape influences. In addition, the size of the fragment, its shape and the distance from the nearest forest edge were the main predictors of the proportion of predated seeds. Moreover, the two main seed predators (squirrels and invertebrates) responded to the same fragment and local variables. Because most of the Atlantic forest consists of small fragments, we expect that the seed predation of this keystone palm should be high in most of its distribution, with potential consequences for the frugivore community.





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Ecography, v. 39, n. 5, p. 465-475, 2016.

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