New paper: Loss of animal seed dispersal increases extinction risk in a tropical tree species

collecting civet seeds off a log

Happy to announce a new publication:

Caughlin T.T., Ferguson J.M., Zuidema, P.A., Levey, D.J., Bunyavejchewin S.,Lichstein J.W. Loss of animal seed dispersal increases extinction risk in a tropical tree species due to pervasive negative density dependence across life stages.In press, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Overhunting directly threatens mammals in tropical forests worldwide and could indirectly threaten trees with seeds dispersed by mammals. Without seed dispersal, seeds remain crowded beneath the parent tree. Using field data and simulation models, we investigated the long-term effects of seed dispersal for a tree species in Thailand. We found negative effects of crowding for growth and survival across the entire tree life cycle, from seeds to adults. Loss of mammalian seed dispersal increased crowding and raised the risk of tree extinction by ten-fold. Our findings suggest that overhunting could lead to cascading extinctions in tropical forests.

This paper is a result of my dissertation research, including a ton of field work (the above photo is me excitedly poking through civet poop during the first year of the project) and a ton of computer programming. So I’m glad to see it finally out in print.