Increased Productivity and Reduced Seed Predation Favor a Large-seeded Palm in Small Atlantic Forest Fragments

Publication Type:Journal Article
Authors:C. S. Andreazzi, Pimenta, C. S., Pires, A. S., Fernandez, F. A. S., Oliveira-Santos, L. G., Menezes, J. F. S.
Date Published:Mar

Large-seeded plants are especially vulnerable to the loss of seed dispersers in small forest fragments. The palm Attalea humilis goes against this trend by reaching high abundances in small remnants. Productivity, seed dispersal and seed predation of A. humilis were investigated in two large (2400 and 3500 ha) and three small (19, 26 and 57 ha) Atlantic Forest fragments in southeastern Brazil. Palms in the small fragments produced more female inflorescences, resulting in a higher fruit production in these places. Seed dispersal rates were higher in the large fragments, where scatter hoarding was more frequent. Scolytine beetles were the main seed predators and damaged a larger number of seeds in small fragments, but predation by rodents and bruchine beetles was low irrespective of fragment size. As scolytines do not necessarily kill the seeds, low predation by bruchines and rodents, together with its own high productivity, allow A. humilis to be more abundant in small fragments despite the scarcity of its main dispersers. This increased abundance, by its turn, can increase competitive interactions between A. humilis and other plants in small fragments. Thus, abundance patterns of A. humilis are a good example of fragmentation affecting the balance of ecological interactions in a complex way, emphasizing the role of preserving ecological processes for conserving biodiversity in fragmented tropical landscapes.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith