Effects of Single and Recurrent Wildfires on Fruit Production and Large Vertebrate Abundance in a Central Amazonian Forest

Abstract

Wildfires are an increasing threat to tropical rainforests, yet little is known about their effects on fruit production and forest wildlife. We examined the effects of both single and recurrent wildfires on fruit production and large vertebrate abundance in a central Amazonian terra firme forest for 3 years following a large fire event. The estimated mortality of 42 and 74% of stems ≥10 cm in once- and twice-burnt forest led to a substantial loss of fruiting tree basal area (29 and 62% were lost in once- and twice-burnt forest, respectively) and crown coverage of fruiting woody lianas (89 and 97% were lost in once- and twice-burnt forest, respectively). Some important tree families producing fleshy fruits were less abundant than expected in once- and twice-burnt forest, suggesting that tree mortality was non-random in terms of species composition. Asynchronous fruit production was affected, and burnt forest transects sustained a much lower fruiting basal area, and fewer fruiting species during the dry season period of fruit scarcity. The number of fruiting trees in once- and twice-burnt forest was higher than the number predicted from actual levels of tree mortality recorded in each fire disturbance treatment, suggesting some surviving trees which may have benefited from higher irradiance levels and lower competition for resources. Many large frugivores and other vertebrate species declined in response to single fires, and most primary forest specialists were extirpated from twice-burnt forest, which sustained a higher number of species associated with second growth and other disturbed habitats.

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Barlow, J., Peres, C.A. Effects of Single and Recurrent Wildfires on Fruit Production and Large Vertebrate Abundance in a Central Amazonian Forest. Biodivers Conserv 15, 985–1012 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-004-3952-1

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Keywords

  • Fire
  • Frugivory
  • Fruit phenology
  • Hunting
  • Seed dispersal
  • Tropical forest