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Ecological services performed by the bonobo (Pan paniscus): seed dispersal effectiveness in tropical forest

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 September 2013

David Beaune*
Affiliation:
Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Primatology, Leipzig, Germany Laboratoire Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 6282, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France
François Bretagnolle
Affiliation:
Laboratoire Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 6282, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France UMR 5175 CEFE-CNRS 1919, route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier 5
Loïc Bollache
Affiliation:
Université de Bourgogne, UMR1347 Agroécologie, BP 86510, F-21000 Dijon, France
Chloé Bourson
Affiliation:
Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Primatology, Leipzig, Germany Laboratoire Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 6282, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France
Gottfried Hohmann
Affiliation:
Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Primatology, Leipzig, Germany
Barbara Fruth
Affiliation:
Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Primatology, Leipzig, Germany
*
1Corresponding author. Email: david.beaune@gmail.com

Abstract:

Survival of Afrotropical primary forests depends not only on habitat protection but also on the protection of animal species such as frugivorous primates, recognized as the most important seed dispersers for many plants. Here we investigate seed-dispersal services by the bonobo (Pan paniscus) in an evergreen lowland tropical rain forest of the Congo Basin. In the long-term research site of LuiKotale, we investigated food habits and seed processing based on 22 mo of behavioural observation, seed trial experiment and long-term daily GPS tracking of a habituated ape community. Bonobos were mainly frugivores (66% of all feeding sessions), spending about 3.5 h d−1 swallowing seeds that were transported for an average of 24 h in the gut. On average, an individual bonobo dispersed 172 kg y−1 of seeds (or 220000 seeds y−1) of more than 91 plant species by endozoochory over an average distance of 1.2 km from the parent tree. Passed seeds germinated more rapidly, more successfully and had greater post-dispersal survival than unpassed seeds. Bonobo-dispersed plants accounted for 40% of tree species and 65% of individual trees in the study site (12 1-ha plots census). Since bonobos show little functional overlap with other frugivores, the loss of their seed-dispersal services is likely to affect forest structure and dynamics. Our results justify description of the threatened bonobo as a gardener of the Congo forest.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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