Lowland Tapirs Facilitate Seed Dispersal in Degraded Amazonian Forests

Lowland Tapirs Facilitate Seed Dispersal in Degraded Amazonian Forests


During their first decades of growth, secondary tropical forests have the potential to accumulate significative more carbon than old-growth stands. Nevertheless, recovering degraded forests' habitats could be an expensive task to achieve. In this context, natural regeneration processes, such as seed dispersal by herbivorous animals, offer a cost-effective tool to recover degraded forests, although this role remains largely unexplored.


In this study, the authors explored the role of lowland tapirs in dispersing seeds across disturbed forests that have experienced forest fires, windstorms, and fragmentation. To accomplish this, they combined data from aerial light detection and ranging (LiDAR) surveys, camera traps, and field surveys to map and quantify forest degradation, habitat use, and seed dispersal by tapirs in burned and unburned forests.


The authors found that tapirs used burned forests twice than undisturbed forests, probably due to the higher number of palatable plants from early successional stages located in these habitats. As a result, there was a higher density of dung in these forests. These dungs were in open-canopy areas and contained a higher proportion of small-seeded climax tree species, including four previously undocumented species for the area. Therefore, tapir’s population decline would impact not only the ecological processes of undisturbed forests but also slow the recovery of degraded areas.


Paolucci LN, Pereira RL, Rattis L, et al. Lowland tapirs facilitate seed dispersal in degraded Amazonian forests. Biotropica. 2019;51(2):245 - 252. doi:10.1111/btp.2019.51.issue-210.1111/btp.12627.