About this Research Topic
Seed dispersal is a key phase in the regeneration process of plant populations. Besides determining the potential area of recruitment, it simultaneously acts as a template for the subsequent stages of plant growth. Seed dispersal is the most common means for plants to colonize new areas and to avoid sibling competition and natural enemies such as herbivores or pathogens. Seed dispersal by animals, in particular, is considered a pivotal ecosystem function that drives plant-community dynamics in natural habitats and vegetation recovery in human-altered landscapes. Animals play an important role as seed dispersers for most plant species around the globe and contribute to numerous ecosystem services offered by forests, including fruit, wood and non-timber products, carbon sequestration, and forest cover – at no cost to humans.
Despite animal seed dispersers exert such crucial functions, they are often neglected -compared to pollinators, for instance - when referring to ecosystem services. The goal of this Research Topic is thus to contribute with recent advances to highlight the importance of animals that disperse seeds for biodiversity maintenance and ecosystem functioning, as well as to call attention to the main threats to such ecosystem service.
An increasing number of studies are showing how the populations of seed dispersers are being decimated due to different drivers of global change, and how this translates into lower plant dispersal success and sometimes even to plant extinction. We focus on the causes and risks of seed dispersal disruptions for conservation and their implications for ecological restoration in a variety of systems, both in the tropics and the temperate zones. We urgently need this type of knowledge, and not only from an ecological perspective but also an evolutionary one, to develop basic conservation and management guidelines for this essential ecosystem service.
The object of this Research Topic is to bring together current research that provides evidence on (1) the role that animal seed dispersers play in maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, using diverse approaches and at different scales (local, regional, global) and (2) the current threats to such ecosystem service.
We welcome manuscripts on the following subjects:
(i) Effect of habitat loss and/or fragmentation on plant-seed disperser interactions
(ii) How climate change is influencing seed dispersal by animals
(iii) Effects of defaunation on seed dispersal success
(iv) Importance of animal seed dispersers in ecological restoration
(v) Shifts in ecological functions provided by remaining seed dispersers
(vi) Evolutionary changes derived from seed dispersal disruptions
(vii) Seed dispersal disservices: Plant invasions mediated by native seed dispersers
Keywords: frugivory, mutualistic interactions, mutualistic disruptions, seed dispersal collapse, seed dispersal restoration
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