Photos from the field: Aliyu et al. 2014. Scatterhoarding rodents in African Forests

Babale Aliyu, Hammadu Adamu, Elena Moltchanova, Pierre Michel Forget and Hazel Chapman. 2014. The Interplay of Habitat and Seed Type on Scatterhoarding Behavior in a Fragmented Afromontane Forest Landscape. Biotropica 46(3): 264–267

Scatterhoarding by rodents, whereby seeds are collected and stored for later consumption, can result in seed dispersal. Seeds may be covered in litter on the forest floor (cached) or buried. This is particularly so in the Neotropics for large, nutritious seeds, and where primary dispersers are rare or missing. In African forests, contemporary anthropogenic pressures such as hunting, forest degradation, and fragmentation are contributing toward major declines in large frugivores, yet the potential for scatterhoarding to mitigate this loss is largely unknown. In this study, we used thread-marked seed to explore the balance between seed predation and dispersal by rodents in Afromontane forest. We studied two tree species in three habitats: (1) continuous forest; (2) continuous forest edge, and (3) small, degraded riparian forest patches. We found that seed removal rates were high and almost the same in all three habitats for both tree species, but that the predation/dispersal balance differed among habitats. In continuous forest, more seeds of each species were scatterhoarded than depredated, and rates of scatterhoarding differed between the two species. In all habitats, burying seeds up to 2 cm belowground was more common than caching. Distances seeds were moved was approximately five times greater in continuous forest than in forest edge or riparian patches. We found strong evidence to suggest that the African pouched rat, Cricetomys sp. nov was responsible for the scatterhoarding.

More information on the Nigerian Montane Forest Project here

Collecting Carapa for experiments

Collecting Carapa for experiments

Field assistants at the Nigerian Montane Forest Project

Field assistants at the Nigerian Montane Forest Project

Ngel Nyaki forest

Ngel Nyaki forest

Nigerian Montane Forest Project field ststion

Nigerian Montane Forest Project field ststion