Persistence of the effect of frugivore identity on post-dispersal seed fate: consequences for the assessment of functional redundancy

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Large frugivores play an important role as seed dispersers and their extinction may affect plant regeneration. The consequences of such extinctions depend on the likelihood of other species being functionally redundant and on how post-dispersal events are affected. We assess the functional redundancy of two seed dispersers of the Atlantic Forest, the muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides) and the tapir (Tapirus terrestris) through the comparison of their seed dispersal quality, taking into account post-dispersal events. We compare tapirs and muriquis for: (1) the dung beetle community associated with their feces; (2) the seed burial probability and burial depth by dung beetles; and (3) the seed mortality due to predators or other causes according to burial depth. We determine how seed burial affects seed dispersal effectiveness (SDE) and compare the dispersal quality of four plant species dispersed by these frugivores. Muriqui feces attract 16-fold more dung beetles per gram of fecal matter and seeds experience 10.5-fold more burial than seeds in tapir feces. In both feces types, seed mortality due to predation decreases with burial depth but seed mortality due to other causes increases. Total seed mortality differ within plant species according to the primary disperser. Therefore, the effect of seed burial on SDE varies according to the plant species, burial depth, and primary disperser. As tapirs and muriquis differently affect the seed fate, they are not functionally redundant. Since the effect of the primary disperser persists into the post-dispersal events, we should consider the cascading effects of these processes when assessing functional redundancy.




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Biotropica, v. 49, n. 3, p. 293-302, 2017.

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