, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 553-569,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 15 May 2010

Seasonal Variation in Seed Dispersal by Tamarins Alters Seed Rain in a Secondary Rain Forest

Abstract

Reduced dispersal of large seeds into degraded areas is one of the major factors limiting rain forest regeneration, as many seed dispersers capable of transporting large seeds avoid these sites with a limited forest cover. However, the small size of tamarins allows them to use small trees, and hence to disperse seeds into young secondary forests. Seasonal variations in diet and home range use might modify their contribution to forest regeneration through an impact on the seed rain. For a 2-yr period, we followed a mixed-species group of tamarins in Peru to determine how their role as seed dispersers in a 9-yr-old secondary-growth forest varied across seasons. These tamarins dispersed small to large seeds of 166 tree species, 63 of which were into a degraded area. Tamarins’ efficiency in dispersing seeds from primary to secondary forest varied across seasons. During the late wet season, high dietary diversity and long forays in secondary forest allowed them to disperse large seeds involved in later stages of regeneration. This occurred precisely when tamarins spent a more equal amount of time eating a high diversity of fruit species in primary forest and pioneer species in secondary forest. We hypothesized that well-balanced fruit availability induced the movement of seed dispersers between these 2 habitats. The noteworthy number of large-seeded plant species dispersed by such small primates suggests that tamarins play an important, but previously neglected, role in the regeneration and maintenance of forest structure.