Fragmentation and Alteration of Seed Dispersal Processes: An Initial Evaluation of Dung Beetles, Seed Fate, and Seedling Diversity

Colin A. Chapman*, Lauren J. Chapman, Kevina Vulinec, Amy Zanne, Michael J. Lawes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Given current accelerated trends of tropical land conversion, forest fragments are being incorporated into many conservation programs. For investing in fragments to be a viable conservation strategy, forest fragments must maintain their ecological integrity over the long term. Based on fieldwork in 22 forest fragments in the crater lakes region of western Uganda and in the continuous forest of Kibale National Park, we examined (1) seed predation on experimentally dispersed seeds, (2) abundance and composition of the dung beetle community that may play a major role in removing seeds from sites of high seed predation, and (3) compared the fragments' seedling community composition to adult tree community composition and the seedling community in continuous forest. First, the rate of seed removal at experimental stations was lower in forest fragments (85% remaining after 1 day) than at stations in the continuous forest (79% remaining) and the probability of stations being discovered by seed predators was lower in fragments (23%) than in the intact forest (41%). Second, there was a 62 percent decline in fragment dung beede abundance. The magnitude of this decline varied among dung beetle guilds that process dung and seeds in different fashions. The abundance of large rollers that move large seeds away from sites of defecation did not differ, but medium and smaller rollers and burying beedes that process small and medium-sized seeds were less common in the fragments than in the intact forest. Finally, we compared the seedling community composition relative to adult tree community composition by identifying all adult trees in each fragment and by sampling the composition of the seedling community. We found some evidence to suggest that there was movement of seeds among forest fragments by large-bodied dispersers, particularly chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and hornbills (Ceratogymna subcylindricus).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-393
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Dung beetles
  • Fragmentation
  • Kibale National Park
  • Regeneration
  • Rodents
  • Seed dispersal
  • Uganda


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