Abstract

 The seed dispersal process is a crucial stage in plant regeneration and maintenance of forest biological diversity. While the number of removed seeds is quantitative, the distance to which a seed is removed from its origin is qualitative, because it affects the probability that a seed will germinate and recruit to the next life stage. However, the creation of forest margins can negatively affect the seed dispersal process, especially for large-diaspore plant species. In this study, the diaspore removal and dispersal distance of Caryocar coriaceum, a tree with large diaspores that is in danger of extinction, were analyzed. The study was conducted for two consecutive years in a protected forest in Northeastern Brazil. Each year, 1 200 diaspores with a nylon wire and a satin tape yellow were used and equally distributed in 120 experimental stations established on the forest margin and in the interior. During the first year of the study, no differences in diaspore removal and dispersal distance were found among the investigated environments. However, for the second year of the study, the number of removed diaspores differed significantly; nevertheless, the dispersal distance was not different between the forest margin and the interior. The low diaspore removal percentages suggest that species recruitment may be compromised because the diaspore accumulation close to the relatives enables higher fungi and insect attack. In addition, most of the few removed diaspores were found at short distances from their sources (up to 5 m), which can lead to low genetic variability. Virtually no diaspore was found buried by hoarding rodents, and no diaspore was found preyed upon by these animals. Evidence found in this study suggests the local loss of species dispersers, which can compromise the maintenance of forest biological diversity.

Keywords: protected forests, biodiversity conservation, density dependent mortality, disperser loss, non-timber forest product.