Functional variation among frugivorous birds: implications for rainforest seed dispersal in a fragmented subtropical landscape.
MetadataShow full item record
Seed dispersal plays a critical role in rainforest regeneration patterns, hence loss of avian seed dispersers in fragmented landscapes may disrupt forest regeneration dynamics. To predict whether or not a plant will be dispersed in fragmented forests, it is necessary to have information about frugivorous bird distribution and dietary composition. However, specific dietary information for frugivorous birds is often limited. In such cases, information on the seed-crushing behaviour, gape width and relative dietary dominance by fruit may be used to describe functional groups of bird species with respect to their potential to disperse similar seeds. We used this information to assess differences in the seed dispersal potential of frugivorous bird assemblages in a fragmented rainforest landscape of southeast Queensland, Australia. The relative abundance of frugivorous birds was surveyed in extensive, remnant and regrowth rainforest sites (16 replicates of each). Large-gaped birds with mixed diets and medium-gaped birds with fruit-dominated diets were usually less abundant in remnants and regrowth than in continuous forest. Small-gaped birds with mixed diets and birds with fruit as a minor dietary component were most abundant in regrowth. We recorded a similar number of seed-crushing birds and large-gaped birds with fruit-dominated diets across site types. Bird species that may have the greatest potential to disperse a large volume and wide variety of plants, including large-seeded plants, tended to be less abundant outside of extensive forests, although one species, the figbird Sphecotheres viridis, was much more abundant in these areas. The results suggest that the dispersal of certain plant taxa would be limited in this fragmented landscape, although the potential for the dispersal of large-seeded plants may remain, despite the loss of several large-gaped disperser species.