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Effect of rodents on seed fate of five hornbill-dispersed tree species in a tropical forest in north-east India

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2009

Nandini Velho
Affiliation:
Post-graduate Program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, National Centre for Biological Sciences, GKVK campus, Bellary Road, Bangalore 560 065, India Wildlife Conservation Society–India Program, Centre for Wildlife Studies, 1669, 31st Cross, 16th Main, Banashankari 2nd stage, Bangalore 560 070, India
Aparajita Datta*
Affiliation:
Nature Conservation Foundation, 3076/5, 4th Cross, Gokulam Park, Mysore 570 002, India
Kavita Isvaran
Affiliation:
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012, India
*
1Corresponding author. Email: aparajita@ncf-india.org

Abstract:

Hornbills are important dispersers of a wide range of tree species. Many of these species bear fruits with large, lipid-rich seeds that could attract terrestrial rodents. Rodents have multiple effects on seed fates, many of which remain poorly understood in the Palaeotropics. The role of terrestrial rodents was investigated by tracking seed fate of five hornbill-dispersed tree species in a tropical forest in north-east India. Seeds were marked inside and outside of exclosures below 6–12 parent fruiting trees (undispersed seed rain) and six hornbill nest trees (a post-dispersal site). Rodent visitors and seed removal were monitored using camera traps. Our findings suggest that several rodent species, especially two species of porcupine were major on-site seed predators. Scatter-hoarding was rare (1.4%). Seeds at hornbill nest trees had lower survival compared with parent fruiting trees, indicating that clumped dispersal by hornbills may not necessarily improve seed survival. Seed survival in the presence and absence of rodents varied with tree species. Some species (e.g. Polyalthia simiarum) showed no difference, others (e.g. Dysoxylum binectariferum) experienced up to a 64% decrease in survival in the presence of rodents. The differing magnitude of seed predation by rodents can have significant consequences at the seed establishment stage.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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