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Plant attributes in the Pantanal seed dispersal network: consequences on spatial and demographic patterns

Abstract

Seed dispersal presents at least two main ecological advantages to plants: the escape from the high density-dependent mortality in the mother plant vicinity and the expansion of their local distributions. Thus, seed dispersal is considered an important process especially in tropical forests. Those forests present an amazing diversity of plant species with fleshy fruits, ingested and eventually dispersed by animals, and those fruits also present a high diversity of sizes, shapes, colors, period and length of fruit production that can determine the identity of seed dispersers and the intensity with which those plants are dispersed. Due to this high diversity in tropical forests, interactions involving only one species of plant and one species of seed disperser are extremely rare. Due to this variation across plant species in their number of seed dispersers, seed dispersal can be organized and viewed as a matrix of interactions. Those matrices have been analyzed through the network approach in order to describe the pattern of both mutualistic and antagonistic when a large data set is available. Even though these networks have been relatively well-described, diverse networks in terms of, for example, groups of seed dispersers and/or habitat types, like the Pantanal network, was never studied before. The data on the number of dispersers and the intensity of interactions of plants with seed dispersers, not only give us information to describe the pattern of the network, but also allows us to describe plant species based on their dependence on seed dispersers, a measurement that presents two extremes: in one side, plant species that weakly relies on many seed dispersers, and in the other, plant species that strongly relies on few seed dispersers. The dependence of plants on seed dispersers can help us to understand their spatial distribution, which, indirectly, affects the development of those plant species, shaping their population structure and dynamics. The goals of this study are: 1) to analyze the pattern of a very diverse fruit-frugivore network and to describe three dispersal attributes of plant species based on their number of seed dispersers and on their dependence on seed dispersers, 2) to infer about the pattern of the networks and the conservation of the system when we simulate extincions of plant and animal species, 3) to address the importance of morphological and nutritional fruit traits and the availability of fruits in defining these attributes of plant species in the Pantanal seed dispersal network, and 4) to try to understand if one of these dispersal attributes of plant species, the dependence of plants on seed dispersers, is associated with seedling spatial distribution, as well as to assess the demographic consequences of different spatial distribution patterns (for example clumped X random). The Pantanal is the ideal place for reaching these goals because it shelters a relatively high abundance of animals compared to other tropical rain forests, making the interactions between a variety of groups of seed dispersers and plant species relatively easy to be surveyed. The Pantanal has 170.000 km2 and presents a mosaic of semi-deciduous forests, gallery forests and savannas, habitats in where this study has been conducted. Fazenda Barranco Alto, our study site, has 11,000 ha (with 3,400 ha of them designated to conservation, without the presence of cattle for 20 years) and is located in the Nehcolândia region, one of the most pristine within the Pantanal. (AU)

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
GALETTI, MAURO; CAMARGO, HILEIA; SIQUEIRA, TADEU; KEUROGHLIAN, ALEXINE; DONATTI, CAMILA I.; JORGE, MARIA LUISA S. P.; PEDROSA, FELIPE; KANDA, CLAUDIA Z.; RIBEIRO, MILTON C. Diet Overlap and Foraging Activity between Feral Pigs and Native Peccaries in the Pantanal. PLoS One, v. 10, n. 11 NOV 4 2015. Web of Science Citations: 15.
PIRES, MATHIAS M.; GALETTI, MAURO; DONATTI, CAMILA I.; PIZO, MARCO A.; DIRZO, RODOLFO; GUIMARAES, JR., PAULO R. Reconstructing past ecological networks: the reconfiguration of seed-dispersal interactions after megafaunal extinction. Oecologia, v. 175, n. 4, p. 1247-1256, AUG 2014. Web of Science Citations: 33.
DONATTI, CAMILA I.; GUIMARAES, PAULO R.; GALETTI, MAURO; PIZO, MARCO AURELLIO; MARQUITTI, FLAVIA M. D.; DIRZO, RODOLFO. Analysis of a hyper-diverse seed dispersal network: modularity and underlying mechanisms. ECOLOGY LETTERS, v. 14, n. 8, p. 773-781, AUG 2011. Web of Science Citations: 111.

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