Effectiveness of primate seed dispersers for an “oversized” fruit, Garcinia benthamii

The largest fruits found in tropical forests may depend on complementary seed dispersal strategies. These fruits are dispersed most effectively by megafauna, but populations can persist where megafauna are absent or erratic visitors. Smaller animals often consume these large fruits, but their capacity to disperse these seeds effectively has rarely been assessed. We evaluated the contributions of gibbons (Hylobates lar) and other frugivores in the seed dispersal of the megafaunal fruit Garcinia benthamii, using the SDE (seed dispersal effectiveness) landscape. Gibbons preferentially consumed G. benthamii fruits and were the main seed disperser that we observed. However, gibbons became satiated when availability was high, with 57% of fruits falling to the ground unhandled. Recruitment of seedlings from gibbon-dispersed seeds was also very low. Elephants consumed G. benthamii fruit, but occurred at low density and were rare visitors to the trees. We suggest that gibbons might complement the seed dispersal role of elephants for G. benthamii, allowing limited recruitment in areas (such as the study site) where elephants occur at low density. Fruit availability varied between years; when availability was low, gibbons reliably consumed most of the crop and dispersed some seeds that established seedlings, albeit at low numbers (2.5 seedlings per crop). When fruit availability was high, the fruit supply overwhelmed the gibbons and other arboreal frugivores, ensuring a large abundance of fruit available to terrestrial seed dispersers. Although gibbons effectively dispersed more seeds at these times (20.7 seedlings per crop), there was the potential for elephants to move many more seeds. Complementary seed dispersal strategies may be important for megafaunal fruit, because they ensure that very large fruits are able to benefit from megafaunal dispersal but also persist where this dispersal becomes erratic. However, our data suggest that smaller seed dispersers might not be capable of replacing large dispersers, leading to potential changes in landscape-scale dispersal patterns where megafauna are absent.

Kim R. McConkey, Warren Y. Brockelman, Chanpen Saralamba, & Anuttara Nathalang
Mo Singto