Low-intensity logging and hunting have long-term effects on seed dispersal but not fecundity in Afrotropical forests.
Hunting and logging, ubiquitous human disturbances in tropical forests, have the potential to alter the ecological processes that govern population recruitment and community composition. Hunting-induced declines in populations of seed-dispersing animals are expected to reduce dispersal of the tree species that rely on them, resulting in potentially greater distance- and density-dependent mortality. At the same time, selective logging may alter competitive interactions among tree species, releasing remaining trees from light, nutrient or space limitations. Taken together, these disturbances may alter the community composition of tropical forests, with implications for carbon storage, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem function. To evaluate the effects of hunting and logging on tree fecundity and seed dispersal, we use 3 years of seed rain data from a large-scale observational experiment in previously logged, hunted and protected forests in northern Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). We find that low-intensity logging had a meaningful long-term effect on species-specific seed dispersal distances, though the direction and magnitude varied and was not congruent within dispersal vector. Tree fecundity increased with tree diameter, but did not differ appreciably across disturbance regimes. The species-specific dispersal responses to logging in this study point towards the long-lasting toll of disturbance on ecological function and highlight the necessity of conserving intact forest.
Nuñez, CL; Clark, JS; Clark, CJ; Poulsen, JR
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