The importance of landscape structure for seed dispersal in rain forest fragments
What are the main features of the seed rain in a fragmented Atlantic forest landscape? Can seed rain species attributes (life form, dispersal mode, successional status) relate to the spatial arrangement (size and number of fragments, edge density and presence of corridor) of forest fragments in the landscape? How does the rain forest landscape structure affect the seed rain?
Atlantic rainforest, São Paulo State, Southeastern Brazil.
Seed rain samples were collected monthly throughout 1 yr, counted, identified and classified according to species dispersal mode, successional status and life form. Seed rain composition was compared with woody species near the seed traps. Relationships between seed rain composition and landscape spatial arrangement (fragment area, presence of corridor, number of fragments in the surroundings, proximity of fragments, and edge density) were tested using canonical correspondence analysis (CCA).
We collected 20 142 seeds belonging to 115 taxa, most of them early successional and anemochorous trees. In general, the seed rain had a species composition distinct from that of the nearby forest tree community. Small isolated fragments contained more seeds, mainly of anemochorous, epiphytic and early-successional species; large fragments showed higher association with zoochorous and late-successional species compared to small fragments. The CCA significantly distinguished the species dispersal mode according to fragment size and isolation, anemochorous species being associated to small and isolated fragments, and zoochorous species to larger areas and fragment aggregation. Nevertheless, a gradient driven by proximity (PROX) and edge density (ED) segregated lianas (in the positive extremity), early successional and epiphyte species (in the negative end); large fragments were positively associated to PROX and ED.
The results highlight the importance of the size and spatial arrangement of forest patches to promote habitat connectivity and improve the flux of animal-dispersed seeds. Landscape structure controls seed fluxes and affects plant dispersal capacity, potentially influencing the composition and structure of forest fragments. The seed rain composition may be used to assess the effects of landscape spatial structure on plant assemblages, and provide relevant information for biodiversity conservation.