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La dispersión de semillas por aves y la recuperación del bosque mesófilo de montaña: Mexico

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La dispersión de semillas es un proceso ecológico importante para el mantenimiento de la biodiversidad de los ecosistemas y para la regeneración de las comunidades vegetales. Existen diversos tipos (o síndromes) de dispersión, los cuales están determinados según la forma en que las semillas son transportadas a sitios potenciales de establecimiento: por gravedad (barocoría), por viento (anemocoría), por agua (hidrocoría), o por animales (zoocoría, la cual se presenta en dos tipos: exozoocoría, que consiste en la adhesión de semillas al pelaje o plumaje de animales; y endozoocoría, que consiste directamente en su ingestión.

En algunas ocasiones, la dispersión de semillas es a corta distancia de las plantas progenitoras (ej. barocoría), lo que dificulta su establecimiento por la competencia entre las semillas e incluso con la misma planta madre. En otros casos, la dispersión puede darse a larga distancia (como es el caso de la anemocoría, la hidrocoría, o la zoocoría), permitiendo la colonización de nuevas áreas.

De todos los síndromes, la zoocoría es quizá la estrategia más efectiva de transporte de semillas, que es llevada a cabo por los vertebrados voladores, por ejemplo, las aves y murciélagos frugívoros; por lo que éstos juegan un papel importante en los procesos de regeneración de los ecosistemas naturales. De hecho, se sabe que estos dos grupos de animales llegan a dispersar más del 80 por ciento de las especies leñosas de los bosques tropicales y su papel suele ser complementario, ya que algunas de las semillas que no son dispersadas por las aves, son dispersadas por los murciélagos.

Al transportar las semillas lejos de la planta madre y a zonas perturbadas, las aves actúan como agentes que facilitan el proceso de establecimiento de especies forestales y, por ende, la recuperación de los bosques. Sin embargo, quizá una de las mayores ventajas que confiere la dispersión de semillas por aves, es que el paso de la semilla por su tracto digestivo elimina o debilita la cutícula o estructura externa (proceso conocido como escarificación), lo que en muchos casos incrementa la proporción y velocidad de la germinación de semillas de ciertas especies.

Dentro de los bosques tropicales, el bosque mesófilo de montaña (BMM) es considerado un ecosistema con una alta biodiversidad. Desafortunadamente, el BMM presenta la tasa de deforestación más alta a nivel mundial en comparación con otros tipos de bosques. En la actualidad, casi la mitad de la superficie de estos bosques en México ha sido transformada por actividades humanas, siendo común encontrar sólo fragmentos de bosque inmersos en áreas agrícolas, ganaderas y urbanas. A pesar de que en los últimos años se han realizado algunos estudios que evalúan el papel de las aves como dispersores de semillas en el BMM, aún quedan interrogantes respecto a su aporte en la recuperación de este ecosistema, por ejemplo ¿Qué especies de plantas están siendo dispersadas? ¿Qué especies de aves son las dispersoras más efectivas? o ¿En qué proporción germinan las semillas ingeridas por aves en comparación con aquellas que no son ingeridas?

En el Instituto de Ecología A. C. se realizan estudios para evaluar el papel de las aves frugívoras en el mantenimiento y recuperación del BMM del centro de Veracruz. A partir de trabajo de campo y laboratorio, se ha caracterizado la riqueza y abundancia de la comunidad de aves frugívoras, de las especies vegetales dispersadas y sus síndromes de dispersión; y hemos evaluado el efecto del paso por el tracto digestivo de las aves en la germinación de semillas. Algunos de los resultados de estos estudios demuestran que las semillas de diversas especies de plantas del BMM, forman parte de la dieta de las aves y por lo tanto son dispersadas. Por otro lado, mediante un experimento en laboratorio, se observó un mayor porcentaje de germinación de semillas que habían sido ingeridas por aves en comparación con aquellas que no.

En la actualidad se está incrementando la colección de semillas (de plantas herbáceas, arbustos y árboles) propias del bosque mesófilo de montaña; la cual servirá como referencia para futuros trabajos. Finalmente, estamos logrando comprender un aspecto importante de la interacción entre las plantas y los animales y su papel en la regeneración de los ecosistemas.

fuente: Diario de Xalapa

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