How mammalian predation contributes to tropical tree community structure.
The recruitment of seedlings from seeds is the key demographic transition for rain forest trees. Though tropical forest mammals are known to consume many seeds, their effects on tree community structure remain little known. To evaluate their effects, we monitored 8,000 seeds of 24 tree species using exclosure cages that were selectively permeable to three size classes of mammals for up to 4.4 years. Small and medium-bodied mammals removed many more seeds than did large mammals, and they alone generated beta diversity and negative density dependence, whereas all mammals reduced diversity and shaped local species composition. Thus, small and medium-bodied mammals more strongly contributed to community structure and promoted species coexistence than did large mammals. Given that seedling recruitment is seed limited for most species, alterations to the composition of the community of mammalian seed predators is expected to have long-term consequences for tree community structure in tropical forests.
Paine, CET; Beck, H; Terborgh, J
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