Small mammals reduce distance dependence and increase seed predation risk in tropical rainforest fragments
|Small mammals reduce distance dependence and increase seed predation risk in tropical rainforest fragments
|Year of Publication
|Krishnan A, Osuri AM, Krishnadas M
Seed predation and reduced predation risk with distance from conspecific trees are important influences on tree regeneration in tropical forests. Shifts in animal communities, such as an increase in rodents and other small mammals due to forest fragmentation, could alter patterns of seed predation and affect tree regeneration and community dynamics in forest fragments. We performed a field experiment on four native rainforest tree species in the Western Ghats, India, to test whether fragmentation increases seed predation by mammals and alters the distance dependence of seed predation. We monitored seed predation within open and mammal exclosure plots, near and far from the canopies of conspecific trees, in contiguous and fragmented forests. Seed predation of Cullenia exarillata, Ormosia travancorica, and Syzygium rubicundum was markedly higher in forest fragments, and more so within open plots than exclosures, while the predominantly insect-predated Acronychia pedunculata experienced similar predation in contiguous forests and fragments. Seed predation of C. exarillata and S. rubicundum was unrelated to distance from conspecific trees in open plots in both contiguous forests and fragments, in contrast to exclosures that showed marked near versus far differences in seed predation. Our findings suggest that by increasing overall seed predation risk and imposing similar seed predation risk near and far from adults variably across the tree species, small mammals could alter processes that shape tree diversity and species composition in fragmented tropical rainforests.