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Seed Dispersal by Fruit-Eating Birds

Seed Dispersal by Fruit-Eating Birds

(p.107) Chapter Five Seed Dispersal by Fruit-Eating Birds
Why Birds Matter
Daniel G. WennyÇağan H. ŞekercioğluNorbert J. CordeiroHaldre S. RogersDave Kelly
University of Chicago Press

Seed dispersal by frugivorous birds is a globally important ecosystem service. Nearly 4000 bird species have been observed eating fruit and collectively these species likely disperse seeds of at least 68,000 plants. The types of fruits eaten by birds are structurally diverse but fall into three functional groups, multi-seeded berries, few-seeded drupes, and single-seeded arils in dehiscent structures. Birds disperse primarily tree and shrub seeds, but also disperse the seeds of lianas, herbaceous plants, epiphytes, and hemiparasites. Through seed dispersal, birds are important drivers of plant community dynamics and therefore are essential in supporting many of the ecosystem services that those habitats and their constituent species provide. While much research on seed dispersal by birds has focused on the more frugivorous species, most of the bird species that eat fruit do so seasonally or only occasionally and the seed dispersal roles of most of these species are not well understood. Through their sheer numbers, opportunistic, generalist and/or occasional frugivores may be ecologically important in some ecosystems, but their influence has been little studied. Current trends in habitat loss and other human impacts, especially in the tropics, are threatening larger species of frugivores and the large-seeded plants only these birds disperse.

Keywords:   frugivores, seed dispersal, ecosystem services

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