Most tropical plants produce fleshy fruits that are dispersed primarily by vertebrate frugivores. Behavioral disparities among vertebrate seed dispersers could influence patterns of seed distribution and thus forest structure. This study investigated the relative importance of arboreal seed dispersers and seed predators on the initial stage of forest organization—seed deposition. We asked the following questions: (1) To what degree do arboreal seed dispersers influence the species richness and abundance of the seed rain? and (2) Based on the plant species and strata of the forest for which they provide dispersal services, do arboreal seed dispersers represent similar or distinct functional groups? To answer these questions, seed rain was sampled for 12 months in the Dja Reserve, Cameroon. Seed traps representing five percent of the crown area were erected below the canopies of 90 trees belonging to nine focal tree species: 3 dispersed by monkeys, 3 dispersed by large frugivorous birds, and 3 wind-dispersed species. Seeds disseminated by arboreal seed dispersers accounted for ca 12 percent of the seeds and 68 percent of the seed species identified in seed traps. Monkeys dispersed more than twice the number of seed species than large frugivorous birds, but birds dispersed more individual seeds. We identified two distinct functional dispersal groups, one composed of large frugivorous birds and one composed of monkeys, drop dispersers, and seed predators. These groups dispersed plants found in different canopy strata and exhibited low overlap in the seed species they disseminated. We conclude it is unlikely that seed dispersal services provided by monkeys could be compensated for by frugivorous birds in the event of their extirpation from Afrotropical forests.
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Vol. 33 • No. 4