, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 65-86

Recruitment of Black Howler Fruit Trees in Fragmented Forests of Northern Belize

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Abstract

We examined recruitment of trees whose seeds are dispersed by black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in forest fragments within the Community Baboon Sanctuary in north-central Belize. In the fragments, most other large frugivores are absent and howlers dominate the large frugivore community. Consequently, we expected to observe an increased representation of howler fruit trees among the sapling community. To test this prediction preliminarily we observed howler feeding behavior for one year and conducted adult tree and sapling transects in 6 locations where howlers were present. We sampled a seventh site where howlers were absent for vegetation only. We found that in 4 of 6 sites there were proportionately fewer howler fruit saplings when compared to adult tree samples. However, when recruitment of howler fruit trees in the 6 sites was compared to a site where howlers were absent, 11 of 12 species had relatively higher recruitment. The lack of recruitment among howler fruit trees in general likely reflects differences in responses of individual species, as well as disruptions from human activities to natural processes within the forests. The observed lower recruitment patterns of howler trees suggest that over time, the abundance of the trees will likely decline and thus affect the foraging behavior and possibly survival of howlers in the fragmented forests.