Seed dispersers for forest restoration

Availability of large seed-dispersers for restoration of degraded tropical forest

Tropical Conservation Science Vol.8 (1): 17-27 (2015)

Jeremy A. Lindsell1,4, David C. Lee2,3, Victoria J. Powell2, and Elva Gemita2

1 RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK
2 Harapan Rainforest, Jalan Dadali 32, Bogor 16161, West Java, INDONESIA
3 School of Applied Sciences, The University of South Wales, Pontypridd CF37 4AT, UK
4 A Rocha International, 3 Hooper Street, Cambridge CB1 2NZ UK

An estimated 63% of Southeast Asian forests are classed as disturbed and secondary as a result of human activity. Many of these forests remain important for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services so there is much interest in their capacity for restoration. The role of larger animals as seed dispersers in natural regeneration is well-attested since they are often the only agent by which large-seeded trees can effectively disperse. This is especially important for late successional shade-tolerant species which might otherwise be excluded from disturbed sites. However, many larger animals are sensitive to habitat degradation so may be lost from the very areas that require them. We investigated the persistence of a suite of large mammals that are known seed-dispersers and are also threatened species, in a degraded site in lowland south-central Sumatra. We used camera traps and field observations to relate their distributions to prevailing vegetation conditions. Although most species were more frequently detected in the more intact areas, most were able to occupy habitats with high levels of disturbance and population densities were relatively high. It is clear that severe habitat degradation does not necessarily lead to the immediate loss of large-bodied seed dispersers, so ensuring adequate protection for these species from external threats, such as hunting, must be built into management plans for restoration concessions.
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