Seed dispersal by vertebrates in Madagascar’s forests: review and future directions


  • Onja H. Razafindratsima Rice University


seed dispersal, plants, frugivorous vertebrates, frugivory, Madagascar, tropical forest


Madagascar’s highly diverse forests are critically threatened because of increasing deforestation, and those that remain are facing declines of vertebrate frugivores that disperse their seeds. Thus, understanding plant - frugivore interactions is of critical importance for the conservation and maintenance of plant diversity in Madagascar. This paper reviews observational and experimental studies of the multifaceted aspects of seed dispersal by vertebrates across Madagascar including the relative importance of different seed vectors, the patterns of seed deposition, and the post - dispersal fate of dispersed seeds. This also aims to lay a foundation for future studies by discussing understudied aspects that are crucial for the understanding of the role of frugivores on plant populations and communities in Malagasy forests. Such perspectives are important given the increasing threats to seed dispersers, the low richness of frugivore assemblages in Malagasy forests and the strong reliance of many plant species on frugivores for their dispersal. Understanding this ecosystem service can provide us insights on plant colonization, community structure, demography and invasion, as well as forest restoration and regeneration.



Les forêts de Madagascar abritent des communautés de plantes vasculaires exceptionnellement diverses avec un taux d’endémisme s’élevant à 82 %. Malheureusement, hormis les continuelles dégradation et fragmentation menaçant ces forêts, la flore malgache est aussi menacée par l’insuffisance et le déclin des populations d’animaux frugivores qui jouent un rôle fondamental dans la dissémination des graines. La compréhension de ce mécanisme de dissémination des graines par des frugivores est importante pour savoir comment préserver la biodiversité et la régénération forestière ainsi que pour établir des stratégies de conservation des habitats fragmentés. Le présent article constitue une synthèse des publications scientifiques sur les recherches concernant ce mécanisme dans les forêts malgaches. Les informations disponibles sont plutôt limitées mais suggèrent que la majorité des plantes malgaches dépendent des vertébrés frugivores pour la dissémination de leurs graines. Ces études montrent également quelques aspects portant sur des modèles de dispersion des graines et des plantules. Plusieurs éléments relatifs à ce mécanisme sont encore inconnus et nécessitent des recherches approfondies. Les pressions menaçant les différents vecteurs de graines sont discutées, et plus particulièrement celles qui pourraient avoir des effets néfastes sur la démographie des populations de plantes. En outre, des recommandations sont formulées pour permettre l’intégration des interactions frugivore–plante dans la conservation des écosystèmes forestiers malgaches.


Author Biography

Onja H. Razafindratsima, Rice University

PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


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Seeds of Abrahamia thouvenotii dispersed through defecation by Varecia variegata editorum in Ranomafana National Park. Onja Razafindratsima. Madagascar Conservation & Development.


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