Roles of Birds and Bats in Early Tropical-Forest Restoration

Abstract Restoration of tropical forest depended in large part on seed dispersal by fruit-eating animals that transported seeds into planted forest patches. We tested effectiveness of dispersal agents as revealed by established recruits of tree and shrub species that bore seeds dispersed by birds, bats, or both. We documented restoration of dispersal processes over the first 76 months of xperimental restoration in southern Mexico. Mixed-model repeated-measures randomized- block ANOVAs of seedlings recruited into experimental controls and mixed-species plantings from late-secondary and mature forest indicated that bats and birds played different roles in the first years of a restoration process. Bats dispersed pioneer tree and shrub species to slowly regenerating grassy areas, while birds mediated recruitment of later-successional species into planted stands of trees and to a lesser extent into controls. Of species of pioneer trees and shrubs established in plots, seven were primarily dispersed by birds, three by bats and four by both birds and bats. Of later-successional species recruited past the seedling stage, 13 were of species primarily dispersed by birds, and six were of species dispersed by both birds and bats. No later-successional species primarily dispersed by bats established in control or planted plots. Establishment of recruited seedlings was ten-fold higher under cover of planted trees than in grassy controls. Even pre-reproductive trees drew fruit-eating birds and the seeds that they carried from nearby forest, and provided conditions for establishment of shade-tolerant tree species. Overall, after 76 months of cattle exclusion, 94% of the recruited shrubs and trees in experimental plots were of species that we did not plant.