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Forest fragmentation reduces recruitment of large-seeded tree species in a semi-deciduous tropical forest of southern Mexico

  • Felipe P. L. Melo (a1), Esteban Martínez-Salas (a2), Julieta Benítez-Malvido (a3) and Gerardo Ceballos (a1)


This study tested whether the reduction in the number of large-bodied seed dispersers is correlated with shifts in the taxonomic and functional (e.g. dispersal mode and seed size) traits of the seeding communities within small fragments of semi-deciduous forest, southern Mexico. In five fragments (2.3–640 ha) and one continuous forest site we sampled tree and seedling species in 40 (20 × 20 m) and 120 (3 × 3 m) plots respectively, and recorded the incidence (presence/absence) of the disperser fauna (three common large-birds and >500-g mammals). Tree and seedling species were categorized according to dispersal mode, seed size and whether they originated from local (i.e. from dropped) or immigrant (i.e. from actively dispersed) seeds. Fragment size negatively correlated with number of species of medium to large vertebrate seed-dispersers and number of seedlings of large-seeded species, but had no influence on functional traits of the adult-tree community. Between 41% and 61% of all seedlings were considered as immigrants and the proportion of immigrant seedlings of large-seeded tree species was negatively correlated with forest size. The results suggest that biased defaunation in small forest fragments may seriously reduce recruitment of large-seeded tree species (>1.4 cm length) dispersed by vertebrates, negatively affecting successional trajectories of small forest fragments.


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1Corresponding author. Current address: Centro de Pesquisas Ambientais do Nordeste. Av Caxangá, 5775, sala 05, CEP: 50740–000, Recife, Pernambuco, Brasil. Email:


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Forest fragmentation reduces recruitment of large-seeded tree species in a semi-deciduous tropical forest of southern Mexico

  • Felipe P. L. Melo (a1), Esteban Martínez-Salas (a2), Julieta Benítez-Malvido (a3) and Gerardo Ceballos (a1)


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