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Differences in dung beetle activity at western gorilla defecation sites in south-east Cameroon: implications for establishement of Uapaca spp. seedlings

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For endozoochorous seed dispersal systems, the extant dung beetle assemblage at seed deposition sites may influence site suitability as burial activity may change the probability that seeds germinate and seedlings establish. This study tested if the different conditions of the two main seed-deposition habitats of a western lowland gorilla population of south-east Cameroon (sleeping sites and old secondary forest) influenced dung beetle assemblages and consequently the seed relocation patterns. In March 2012, in both habitats, burial patterns (proportion and depth) were described in eight stations based on two 300-g experimental faeces with known number of Uapaca spp. seeds (N = 75) left for 48 h, and beetle assemblages were described based on one 48h-dung-baited pitfall trapping in five of these stations. To assess the impact of burial pattern on seedling emergence, Uapaca seedling emergence trials were performed in a
nursery (75 seeds per depth treatment). Assemblage at sleeping sites had a higher species richness (non-significant) and was significantly more abundant than in old secondary forests. Conversely, significantly more seeds were buried in old secondary forests than sleeping sites and at significantly greater depths (mean: 14.9 cm vs. 8.7 cm). As trials suggested that burial depth ≥7 cm prevented Uapaca seedling emergence, dung beetles are assumed to induce seed loss more strongly in old secondary forests than sleeping sites (20.5% vs. 6.7% of initial seed crop). The demonstration that dung beetles may exert a negative influence on seed fate overall, and that the degree to which this occurs may vary depending on habitat, highlights the complexity in determining the suitability of deposition sites for recruitment.
Tijdschrift: Journal of Tropical Ecology
ISSN: 0266-4674
Issue: 2
Volume: 31
Pagina's: 165-174
Jaar van publicatie:2015
Trefwoorden:Ecologie en toegepaste ecologie
  • Scopus Id: 84922231404