[2015 ] Differences in dung beetle activity at western gorilla defecation sites in south-east Cameroon: implications for establishment of Uapaca spp. seedlings. Journal of Tropical Ecology 31,165–174 (DOI: 10.1017/S0266467414000753)
For endozoochorous seed dispersal systems, the extant dung beetle assemblage at seed deposition sites may influence site suitability as burial activitymay change the probability that seeds germinate and seedlings establish. This study tested if the different conditions of the twomain seed-deposition habitats of a western lowland gorilla population of south-east Cameroon (sleeping sites and old secondary forest) influenced dung beetle assemblages and consequently the seed relocation patterns. In March 2012, in both habitats, burial patterns (proportion and depth) were described in eight stations based on two 300-g experimental faeces with known number of Uapaca spp. seeds (N = 75) left for 48 h, and beetle assemblages were described based on one 48h-dung-baited pitfall trapping session in five of these stations. To assess the impact of burial pattern on seedling emergence, Uapaca seedling emergence trials were performed in a nursery (75 seeds per depth treatment). Assemblage at sleeping sites had a higher species richness (non-significant) and was significantly more abundant than in old secondary forests. Conversely, significantly more seeds were buried in old secondary forests than sleeping sites and at significantly greater depths (mean: 14.9 cm vs. 8.7 cm). As trials suggested that burial depth7 cmprevented Uapaca seedling emergence, dung beetles are assumed to induce seed loss more strongly in old secondary forests than sleeping sites (20.5% vs. 6.7% of initial seed crop). The demonstration that dung beetles may exert a negative influence on seed fate overall, and that the degree to which this occurs may vary depending on habitat, highlights the complexity in determining the suitability of deposition sites for recruitment.