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    A large‐scale assessment of plant dispersal mode and seed traits across human‐modified Amazonian forests

    Hawes, Joseph E, Vieira, Ima CG, Magnago, Luiz FS, Berenguer, Erika, Ferreira, Joice, Aragão, Luiz EOC, Cardoso, Amanda, Lees, Alexander C ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7603-9081, Lennox, Gareth D, Tobias, Joseph A, Waldron, Anthony and Barlow, Jos (2020) A large‐scale assessment of plant dispersal mode and seed traits across human‐modified Amazonian forests. Journal of Ecology, 108 (4). pp. 1373-1385. ISSN 0022-0477

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    1. Quantifying the impact of habitat disturbance on ecosystem function is critical to understanding and predicting the future of tropical forests. Many studies have examined post-disturbance changes in animal traits related to mutualistic interactions with plants, but the effect of disturbance on plant traits in diverse forests has received much less attention. 2. Focusing on two study regions in the eastern Brazilian Amazon, we used a trait-based approach to examine how seed dispersal functionality within tropical plant communities changes across a landscape-scale gradient of human modification, including both regenerating secondary forests and primary forests disturbed by burning and selective logging. 3. Surveys of 230 forest plots recorded 26,533 live stems from 846 tree species. Using herbarium material and literature, we compiled trait information for each tree species, focusing on dispersal mode and seed size. 4. Disturbance reduced tree diversity and increased the proportion of lower wood density and small-seeded tree species in study plots. Disturbance also increased the proportion of stems with seeds that are ingested by animals and reduced those dispersed by other mechanisms (e.g. wind). Older secondary forests had function-ally similar plant communities to the most heavily disturbed primary forests. Mean seed size and wood density per plot were positively correlated for plant species with seeds ingested by animals. 5. Synthesis. Anthropogenic disturbance has major effects on the seed traits of tree communities, with implications for mutualistic interactions with animals. The important role of animal-mediated seed dispersal in disturbed and recovering forests highlights the need to avoid defaunation or promote faunal recovery. The changes in mean seed width suggest larger vertebrates hold especially important functional roles in these human-modified forests. Monitoring fruit and seed traits can provide a valuable indicator of ecosystem condition, emphasizing the importance of developing a comprehensive plant traits database for the Amazon and other biomes.

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