Defaunation and habitat disturbance interact synergistically to alter seedling recruitment:

Alys Granados, Jedediah F. Brodie, Henry Bernard, Michael J. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Vertebrate granivores destroy plant seeds, but whether animal-induced seed mortality alters plant recruitment varies with habitat context, seed traits, and among granivore species. An incomplete understanding of seed predation makes it difficult to predict how widespread extirpations of vertebrate granivores in tropical forests might affect tree communities, especially in the face of habitat disturbance. Many tropical forests are simultaneously affected by animal loss as well as habitat disturbance, but the consequences of each for forest regeneration are often studied separately or additively, and usually on a single plant demographic stage. The combined impacts of these threats could affect plant recruitment in ways that are not apparent when studied in isolation. We used wire cages to exclude large (elephants), medium, (sambar deer, bearded pigs, muntjac deer), and small (porcupines, chevrotains) ground-dwelling mammalian granivores and herbivores in logged and unlogged forests in Malaysian Borneo. We assessed the interaction between habitat disturbance (selective logging) and experimental defaunation on seed survival, germination, and seedling establishment in five dominant dipterocarp tree species spanning a 21-fold gradient in seed size. Granivore-induced seed mortality was consistently higher in logged forest. Germination of unpredated seeds was reduced in logged forest and in the absence of small to large-bodied mammals. Experimental defaunation increased germination and reduced seed removal but had little effect on seed survival. Seedling recruitment however, was more likely where logging and animal loss occurred together. The interacting effects of logging and hunting could therefore, actually increase seedling establishment, suggesting that the loss of mammals in disturbed forest could have important consequences for forest regeneration and composition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2092-2101
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Borneo
  • defaunation
  • granivore
  • logging
  • plant recruitment
  • plant-herbivore interactions
  • seedling
  • tropical forest


Dive into the research topics of 'Defaunation and habitat disturbance interact synergistically to alter seedling recruitment:'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this