Isolated pasture trees play an important role in forest recovery within fragmented tropical landscapes by attracting seed dispersers and facilitating seedling growth. However, studies with conflicting results have led to confusion about what drives variation in zoochorous-dispersed seed rain patterns under isolated tree canopies.
To assess the role of landscape and biological factors impacting zoochorous-dispersed seed rain under isolated pasture trees across three tropical regions of the world.
We measured seed dispersal under 144 isolated pasture trees found in 12 fragmented tropical and sub-tropical landscapes in Australia, Colombia and Nigeria. Using linear mixed effect models, we modeled seed diversity, abundance, richness and evenness as functions of the biological features and landscape context of isolated trees.
Throughout all regions, the amount of woody vegetation surrounding trees in pastures was negatively related to rainforest seed diversity, evenness and abundance. Seed diversity and evenness increased significantly with the distance of isolated trees to forest fragments in the Australian sub-tropics, but elsewhere, seed diversity and evenness tended to decline with distance to forest, though not significantly.
Our results suggest that the tree composition of landscapes surrounding isolated pasture trees is important for influencing zoochorous-dispersed seed rain, regardless of the region studied. Our study highlights the prominent role of landscape-scale, rather than local-scale factors on seed dispersal to isolated pasture trees, while providing strong evidence that early stage successional processes involving isolated pasture trees are similar throughout global tropical regions.
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Where data agreements permit, data has been archived in DRYAD entry https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.p1255b3.
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We thank all the property owners in Australia, Nigeria and Colombia for allowing access to their properties. Thanks also to all the field assistants who collected data and maintained seed traps at the Nigerian Montane Forest Project: Adam Hassan, Ibrahim Umaru, Yusuf Tongbui and Aliyu Usman; in Australia: Jess Holding; and in Colombia: Leon Londoño, Rodrigo Restrepo and Mauricio and Oscar Botero. Thanks to Richard Fuller and Karen Holl for advice on experimental design. We would also like to thank the staff at the CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Tropical Forest Research Centre in Atherton and Trees for the Evelyn Atherton Tablelands (TREAT) for assistance in seed identification. Part of this work was made possible by a grant awarded to LSC by the Birds Queensland Ornithological Society. Author contributions: L.S.C and M.M.M conceived the idea; L.S.C and B.G.Y collect ed data. L.S.C, J.M.D and M.M.M analysed the data; and L.S.C led the writing to which all other authors contributed.
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Charles, L.S., Dwyer, J.M., Chapman, H.M. et al. Landscape structure mediates zoochorous-dispersed seed rain under isolated pasture trees across distinct tropical regions. Landscape Ecol 34, 1347–1362 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-019-00846-3