Seed dispersal studies have primarily examined dispersal as a function of distance from the parent tree and/or heterogeneity in dispersal due to animal use of nesting, roosting and sleeping sites. However, non-random heterogeneity in seed dispersal is also likely to result from the post-foraging behavior and movement of frugivores which prefer certain trees. To characterize variation in seed rain at fine scales, we studied the dispersal curve of Prunus ceylanica, a primarily bird-dispersed species. We compared seed rain at conspecifics, heterospecific fruiting trees with similar frugivore assemblages, emergent trees, and the landscape surrounding these trees. Seed rain of P. ceylanica was found to peak globally under the canopy of conspecifics but to peak locally under the canopy and immediate neighborhood of heterospecific fruiting trees. Our results demonstrate that seed rain is highly clumped even at fine spatial scales. A large proportion of seeds are dispersed in specific, localized regions. This variation can have important implications for plant population dynamics and might significantly alter the impact of post-dispersal processes. Seed dispersal models may need to incorporate this heterogeneity to explain manifestations of spatially explicit dynamics like mixed species ‘orchards’.
Biotropica 47(1): 77-84.