Few data exist on seed dispersal by frugivorous birds in fragmented landscapes, originating from tropical dry forests, in contrast to more abundant data from tropical rain forests. In this study, we assessed the effect of frugivorous birds in a fragmented landscape of Veracruz, Mexico, now occupied by remnant fragments of tropical semi-deciduous forest and dry deciduous forest, grassland, and shrubby patches on sand dunes. We determined four characteristics related to seed dispersal by birds: the interacting species of plants and birds, the characteristics of these species, spatio-temporal variation in the dispersal system, and the outcome of the process. During one year, we recorded 54 frugivorous bird species and 33 ornithochorous plant species, which engaged in 176 different bird–plant species interactions. Similarity (Sørensen index) of frugivorous bird communities using different vegetation types was high (>70%), suggesting that many bird species used all of the vegetation types. In contrast, the similarity of ornithochorous plant communities among vegetation types commonly was low (<37%), suggesting that most plant species were restricted to particular sites in this landscape. At the landscape level, as well as for tropical deciduous forest, we detected a significant positive relationship (Spearman's correlation of rank coefficient >0.65, P < 0.05) among richness per month of frugivorous birds and plant species bearing fleshy fruits. Seeds of many plant species previously detected in studies of seed rain at the site were eaten by birds during this study. Most seeds of zoochorous species, which are deposited in the dry and decidous tropical forests patches, are produced within these vegetation types (i.e., they are autochthonous species), whereas bird-dispersed seeds arriving in grassland and shrubby patches are produced outside (i.e., allochthonous) and are mostly woody species. Birds are important seed dispersers among vegetation types in this landscape but they have different effects in each one. The four characteristics studied, as well as the landscape approach of this research, allowed us to detect spatial and temporal patterns that otherwise would have remained undetected.
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Vol. 32 • No. 3