SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • avian frugivore;
  • nestedness;
  • plant-frugivore networks;
  • seed dispersal;
  • tropical forest

Abstract

Fleshy-fruited plants in tropical forests largely rely on vertebrate frugivores to disperse their seeds. Although this plant–animal interaction is typically considered a diffuse mutualism, it is fundamental as it provides the template on which tropical forest communities are structured. We applied a mutualistic network approach to investigate the relationship between small-fruited fleshy plant species and the fruit-eating bird community in an intact evergreen forest in northeast Thailand. A minimum of 53 bird species consumed fruits of 136 plant species. Plant-avian frugivore networks were highly asymmetrical, with observed networks filling 30% of all potential links. Whereas some of the missing links in the present study might be due to undersampling, forbidden links can be attributed to size constraints, accessibility and phenological uncoupling, and although the majority of missing links were unknown (58.2%), many were probably due to a given bird species being either rare or only a very occasional fruit eater. The most common frugivores were bulbuls, barbets and fairy-bluebirds, which were responsible for the majority of fruit removal from small fleshy fruited species in our system. Migratory birds seemed to be a minor component of the plant-frugivore networks, accounting for only 3% of feeding visits to fruiting trees; they filled 2% of the overall potential networks. The majority of interactions were generalized unspecific; however, Saurauia roxburghii Wall. appeared to be dependent on flowerpeckers for dispersal, while Thick-billed Pigeons were only seen to eat figs.