To assess ecological consequences of bushmeat hunting in African lowland rainforests, we compared paired sites, with high and low hunting pressure, in three areas of southeastern Nigeria. In hunted sites, populations of important seed dispersers—both small and large primates (including the Cross River gorilla, Gorilla gorilla diehli)—were drastically reduced. Large rodents were more abundant in hunted sites, even though they are hunted. Hunted and protected sites had similar mature tree communities dominated by primate-dispersed species. In protected sites, seedling communities were similar in composition to the mature trees, but in hunted sites species with other dispersal modes dominated among seedlings. Seedlings emerging 1 year after clearing of all vegetation in experimental plots showed a similar pattern to the standing seedlings. This study thus verifies the transforming effects of bushmeat hunting on plant communities of tropical forests and is one of the first studies to do so for the African continent.
- Received January 31, 2013.
- Accepted February 25, 2013.
- © 2013 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.