Seasonality, diaspore traits and the structure of plant-frugivore networks in Neotropical savanna forest


Complex frugivory networks are common in heterogeneous environments, but how the structure of those networks varies due to seasonality and other environmental factors remains unclear. For example, seasonal variation in rainfall can influence fruit production and diaspore characteristics, which could alter the quantity and quality of resources available to different animals in the network and, hence, network structure. We investigated how a frugivory network varied seasonally in Brazilian savanna (Cerrado), where there are well-defined dry and wet seasons and fructification mainly during the rainy season for most tree species. We recorded fruit consumption by animals during the dry and wet seasons in two different gallery forests and used these data to test the hypotheses that connectance, links per species and nestedness would be higher in the dry season than rainy season due to low available food in the former that would be consumed by various species of frugivores. Concomitantly, we also measured seed width and lipid content from diaspores of the fruiting trees to determine if these characteristics influenced interaction properties between fruiting trees and frugivores. Among the measured network parameters, connectance, links per species and specialization varied between seasons in one site but not in the other, indicating that seasonal variation in networks is not necessarily consistent over time or space. The number of tree species with small diaspores with high lipid content differed between seasons, and those characteristics were key factors increasing the interaction parameter of fruiting trees. We suggest that network stability between seasons may be related to local frugivore diversity, resource availability, and fruit quality.

Acta Oecologica, (84), pp. 15–22,