Assessing the impacts of nonrandom seed dispersal by multiple frugivore partners on plant recruitment


  • Corresponding Editor: T. P. Young.


Directed dispersal is defined as enhanced dispersal of seeds into suitable microhabitats, resulting in higher recruitment than if seeds were dispersed randomly. While this constitutes one of the main explanations for the adaptive value of frugivore-mediated seed dispersal, the generality of this advantage has received little study, particularly when multiple dispersers are involved. We used probability recruitment models of a long-lived rainforest tree in Madagascar to compare recruitment success under dispersal by multiple frugivores, no dispersal, and random dispersal. Models were parameterized using a three-year recruitment experiment and observational data of dispersal events by three frugivorous lemur species that commonly disperse its seeds. Frugivore-mediated seed dispersal was nonrandom with respect to canopy cover and increased modeled per-seed sapling recruitment fourfold compared to no dispersal. Seeds dispersed by one frugivore, Eulemur rubriventer, had higher modeled recruitment probability than seeds dispersed randomly. However, as a group, our models suggest that seeds dispersed by lemurs would have lower recruitment than if dispersal were random. Results demonstrate the importance of evaluating the contribution of multiple frugivores to plant recruitment for understanding plant population dynamics and the ecological and evolutionary significance of seed dispersal.