Seed dispersal and regeneration of hornbill dispersed tree species in forests of the Indian Eastern Himalayas

Pia Sethi

Hunting and logging both for subsistence and commercial use is rampant throughout the tropics with potentially severe though largely undelineated consequences for plant-animal interactions and forest dynamics. Frugivorous animals have been shown to play an integral role in tree recruitment and ecological restoration. Because most tropical trees bear fruits that are animal-dispersed, the loss of critical seed dispersers may have profound effects on seedling demography and spatial ecology. In the Indian Eastern Himalayas, declines of hornbill dispersers due to intensive hunting by local tribes for meat and ornamentation coupled with logging is predicted to have significant though largely unknown consequences for forest regeneration. In this region, large hornbills are the primary dispersal agent for several large seeded and relatively rare tree species belonging to the families Meliaceae, Myrsticaceae and Lauraceae. The overall goal was to see if recruitment of large-seeded hornbill dispersed trees is hindered in hunted forests due to declines in the abundance of their large-bodied, hornbill dispersers.