BackgroundKnowledge about how frugivory and seed deposition are spatially distributed is valuable to understand the role of dispersers on the structure and dynamics of plant populations. This may be particularly important within anthropogenic areas, where either the patchy distribution of wild plants or the presence of cultivated fleshy-fruits may influence plant-disperser interactions.
Methodology/principal findingsWe investigated frugivory and spatial patterns of seed deposition by carnivorous mammals in anthropogenic landscapes considering two spatial scales: 'landscape' (∼10 km(2)) and 'habitat type' (∼1-2 km(2)). We sampled carnivore faeces and plant abundance at three contrasting habitats (chestnut woods, mosaics and scrublands), each replicated within three different landscapes. Sixty-five percent of faeces collected (n = 1077) contained seeds, among which wild and cultivated seeds appeared in similar proportions (58% and 53%) despite that cultivated fruiting plants were much less abundant. Seed deposition was spatially structured among both spatial scales being different between fruit types. Whereas the most important source of spatial variation in deposition of wild seeds was the landscape scale, it was the habitat scale for cultivated seeds. At the habitat scale, seeds of wild species were mostly deposited within mosaics while seeds of cultivated species were within chestnut woods and scrublands. Spatial concordance between seed deposition and plant abundance was found only for wild species.
Conclusions/significanceSpatial patterns of seed deposition by carnivores differed between fruit types and seemed to be modulated by the fleshy-fruited plant assemblages and the behaviour of dispersers. Our results suggest that a strong preference for cultivated fruits by carnivores may influence their spatial foraging behaviour and lower their dispersal services to wild species. However, the high amount of seeds removed within and between habitats suggests that carnivores must play an important role--often overlooked--as 'restorers' and 'habitat shapers' in anthropogenic areas.