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Arrival ≠ Survival


Address correspondence to J. Leighton Reid, email


Seed dispersal is commonly a limiting process in ecosystem recovery, and several recent studies have proposed novel methods for overcoming this important biological barrier, particularly in tropical pastures. Multiple experiments in various regions have shown that bird perches attract birds and increase seed dispersal but not seedling recruitment in degraded habitats. New bat-focused restoration applications, such as roost boxes and fruit oils, have proven capable of attracting animals and augmenting seed dispersal, but these applications have yet to be vetted by seedling establishment data. Seeds and seedlings in pastures have low probability of survival, attributable to predation, dessication, rot, and competition with ruderal vegetation. As such, these novel applications are unlikely to have the desired effect of accelerating tropical forest succession. Given that seed dispersal is meaningless if arriving seeds cannot survive, and that seedling recruitment measurements are not prohibitively difficult to take, we suggest that studies of novel seed dispersal techniques should include a measure of seedling recruitment. Without this information, it cannot be assumed that such applications accelerate forest recovery.