Spanish juniper gain expansion opportunities by counting on a functionally diverse dispersal assemblage community.
ABSTRACT: Seed dispersal is typically performed by a diverse array of species assemblages with different behavioral and morphological traits which determine dispersal quality (DQ, defined as the probability of recruitment of a dispersed seed). Fate of ecosystems to ongoing environmental changes is critically dependent on dispersal and mainly on DQ in novel scenarios. We assess here the DQ, thus the multiplicative effect of germination and survival probability to the first 3 years of life, for seeds dispersed by several bird species (Turdus spp.) and carnivores (Vulpes vulpes, Martes foina) in mature woodland remnants of Spanish juniper (Juniperus thurifera) and old fields which are being colonized by this species. Results showed that DQ was similar in mature woodlands and old fields. Germination rate for seeds dispersed by carnivores (11.5%) and thrushes (9.12%) was similar, however, interacted with microhabitat suitability. Seeds dispersed by carnivores reach the maximum germination rate on shrubs (16%), whereas seeds dispersed by thrushes did on female juniper canopies (15.5) indicating that each group of dispersers performed a directed dispersal. This directional effect was diluted when survival probability was considered: thrushes selected smaller seeds which had higher mortality in the seedling stage (70%) in relation to seedlings dispersed by carnivores (40%). Overall, thrushes resulted low-quality dispersers which provided a probability or recruitment of 2.5%, while a seed dispersed by carnivores had a probability of recruitment of 6.5%. Our findings show that generalist dispersers (i.e., carnivores) can provide a higher probability of recruitment than specialized dispersers (i.e., Turdus spp.). However, generalist species are usually opportunistic dispersers as their role as seed dispersers is dependent on the availability of trophic resources and species feeding preferences. As a result, J. thurifera dispersal community is composed by two functional groups of dispersers: specialized low-quality but trustworthy dispersers and generalist high-quality but opportunistic dispersers. The maintenance of both, generalist and specialist dispersers, in the dispersal assemblage community assures the dispersal services and increases the opportunities for regeneration and colonization of degraded areas under a land-use change scenario.
Project description:Land abandonment is one of the most powerful global change drivers in developed countries where recent rural exodus has been the norm. Abandonment of traditional land use practices has permitted the colonization of these areas by shrub and tree species. For fleshy fruited species the colonization of new areas is determined by the dispersal assemblage composition and abundance. In this study we showed how the relative contribution to the dispersal process by each animal species is modulated by the environmental heterogeneity and ecosystem structure. This complex interaction caused differential patterns on the seed dispersal in both, landscape patches in which the process of colonization is acting nowadays and mature woodlands of Juniperus thurifera, a relict tree distributed in the western Mediterranean Basin. Thrushes (Turdus spp) and carnivores (red fox and stone marten) dispersed a high amount of seeds while rabbits and sheeps only a tiny fraction. Thrushes dispersed a significant amount of seeds in new colonization areas, however they were limited by the presence of high perches with big crop size. While carnivores dispersed seeds to all studied habitats, even in those patches where no trees of J. thurifera were present, turning out to be critical for primary colonization. The presence of Pinus and Quercus was related to a reduced consumption of J. thurifera seeds while the presence of fleshy fruited shrubs was related with higher content of J. thurifera seeds in dispersers' faeces. Therefore environmental heterogeneity and ecosystem structure had a great influence on dispersers feeding behaviour, and should be considered in order to accurately describe the role of seed dispersal in ecological process, such as regeneration and colonization. J. thurifera expansion is not seed limited thanks to its diverse dispersal community, hence the conservation of all dispersers in an ecosystem enhance ecosystems services and resilience.
Project description:Frugivorous birds generally exhibit an unequal contribution to dispersal effectiveness of plant species as a function of their habitat adaptation and body size. In our study, we compared the effectiveness of multiple bird species that contribute to the dispersal of the endangered relic Chinese yew, Taxus chinensis. Seven bird species dispersed T. chinensis seeds, with Picus canus, Turdus hortulorum, and Urocissa erythrorhyncha being the main dispersers. The quantity part of dispersal effectiveness was strongly influenced by two inherent characteristics of disperser species: body size and habitat adaptation. However, the quality part of dispersal effectiveness was only influenced by disperser type. For instance, small generalist birds and large specialist birds removed more seeds than other type dispersers. Moreover, small birds and specialist birds contributed slightly more to the dispersal quality of T. chinensis than large birds and generalist birds respectively; however, these differences were not significant. Our results suggest that dispersal effectiveness is affected by variety in the body size and habitat adaptation of different dispersers. Therefore, such variation should be incorporated into spatial and temporal management actions of relic plant species in patchy, human-disturbed habitats.
Project description:The process of seed dispersal of many animal-dispersed plants is frequently mediated by a small set of biotic agents. However, the contribution that each of these dispersers makes to the overall recruitment may differ largely, with important ecological and management implications for the population viability and dynamics of the species implied in these interactions. In this paper, we compared the relative contribution of two local guilds of scatter-hoarding animals with contrasting metabolic requirements and foraging behaviours (rodents and dung beetles) to the overall recruitment of two Quercus species co-occurring in the forests of southern Spain. For this purpose, we considered not only the quantity of dispersed seeds but also the quality of the seed dispersal process. The suitability for recruitment of the microhabitats where the seeds were deposited was evaluated in a multi-stage demographic approach. The highest rates of seed handling and predation occurred in those microhabitats located under shrubs, mostly due to the foraging activity of rodents. However, the probability of a seed being successfully cached was higher in microhabitats located beneath a tree canopy as a result of the feeding behaviour of beetles. Rodents and beetles showed remarkable differences in their effectiveness as local acorn dispersers. Quantitatively, rodents were much more important than beetles because they dispersed the vast majority of acorns. However, they were qualitatively less effective because they consumed a high proportion of them (over 95%), and seeds were mostly dispersed under shrubs, a less suitable microhabitat for short-term recruitment of the two oak species. Our findings demonstrate that certain species of dung beetles (such as Thorectes lusitanicus), despite being quantitatively less important than rodents, can act as effective local seed dispersers of Mediterranean oak species. Changes in the abundance of beetle populations could thus have profound implications for oak recruitment and community dynamics.
Project description:Parrots are largely considered plant antagonists as they usually destroy the seeds they feed on. However, there is evidence that parrots may also act as seed dispersers. We evaluated the dual role of parrots as predators and dispersers of the Critically Endangered Parana pine (Araucaria angustifolia). Eight of nine parrot species predated seeds from 48% of 526 Parana pines surveyed. Observations of the commonest parrot indicated that 22.5% of the picked seeds were dispersed by carrying them in their beaks. Another five parrot species dispersed seeds, at an estimated average distance of c. 250?m. Dispersal distances did not differ from those observed in jays, considered the main avian dispersers. Contrary to jays, parrots often dropped partially eaten seeds. Most of these seeds were handled by parrots, and the proportion of partially eaten seeds that germinated was higher than that of undamaged seeds. This may be explained by a predator satiation effect, suggesting that the large seeds of the Parana pine evolved to attract consumers for dispersal. This represents a thus far overlooked key plant-parrot mutualism, in which both components are threatened with extinction. The interaction is becoming locally extinct long before the global extinction of the species involved.
Project description:The extinction of megafauna in the Neotropics is thought to have reduced the potential of large seeds to be dispersed over long distances by endozoochory (ingestion by animals), but some seed dispersal systems have not been considered. We describe the role of oilbirds (Steatornis caripensis) as seed dispersers, in terms of seed width and dispersal distance (using GPS tracking devices), and we compare with data reported for other animals. Oilbirds dispersed seeds up to 29 mm wide, with a mean dispersal distance of 10.1 km (range 0-47.6 km). Some components of seed dispersal by oilbirds are outliers compared to that of other frugivores, such as the relationship between maximum seed width and body weight (however, few other extant specialized frugivores are also outliers). Estimates of mean dispersal distance by oilbirds are the largest reported, and we confirm that some living frugivores currently fulfil roles of seed dispersers and ecosystem services previously assumed to be only performed by extinct species.
Project description:The Neotropics have many plant species that seem to be adapted for seed dispersal by megafauna that went extinct in the late Pleistocene. Given the crucial importance of seed dispersal for plant persistence, it remains a mystery how these plants have survived more than 10,000 y without their mutualist dispersers. Here we present support for the hypothesis that secondary seed dispersal by scatter-hoarding rodents has facilitated the persistence of these large-seeded species. We used miniature radio transmitters to track the dispersal of reputedly megafaunal seeds by Central American agoutis, which scatter-hoard seeds in shallow caches in the soil throughout the forest. We found that seeds were initially cached at mostly short distances and then quickly dug up again. However, rather than eating the recovered seeds, agoutis continued to move and recache the seeds, up to 36 times. Agoutis dispersed an estimated 35% of seeds for >100 m. An estimated 14% of the cached seeds survived to the next year, when a new fruit crop became available to the rodents. Serial video-monitoring of cached seeds revealed that the stepwise dispersal was caused by agoutis repeatedly stealing and recaching each other's buried seeds. Although previous studies suggest that rodents are poor dispersers, we demonstrate that communities of rodents can in fact provide highly effective long-distance seed dispersal. Our findings suggest that thieving scatter-hoarding rodents could substitute for extinct megafaunal seed dispersers of tropical large-seeded trees.
Project description:The world's largest terrestrial animals (megafauna) can play profound roles in seed dispersal. Yet, the term 'megafauna' is often used to encompass a diverse range of body sizes and physiologies of, primarily, herbivorous animals. To determine the extent to which these animals varied in their seed dispersal effectiveness (SDE), we compared the contribution of different megafauna for the large-fruited Platymitra macrocarpa (Annonaceae), in a tropical evergreen forest in Thailand. We quantified 'seed dispersal effectiveness' by measuring the quantity and quality contributions of all consumers of P. macrocarpa fruit. Seed dispersal quantity was the proportion of the crop consumed by each species. Quality was defined as the proportion of seeds handled by each animal taxon that survived to produce a 2-month seedling. Megafauna (elephants, sambar deer, bears) dispersed 78% of seeds that produced seedlings, with 21% dispersed by gibbons (a medium-sized frugivore). The main megafaunal consumers displayed different dispersal strategies. Elephants were the most effective dispersers (37% of seedlings) and they achieved this by being high-quality and low-quantity dispersers. Bears displayed a similar strategy but were especially rare visitors to the trees (24% of the total seedlings produced). Sambar were high-quantity dispersers, but most seeds they handled did not survive and they were responsible for only 17% of seedlings. Gibbons displayed a high SDE relative to their body size, but they probably cannot match the role of elephants despite being more regular consumers of the fruit. The low density and poor regeneration of P. macrocarpa in the study site suggest that current dispersal rates by megafauna are insufficient, possibly reflecting reduced or missing megafauna populations. We show that different megafaunal species disperse seeds in different ways and may make unique contributions to the reproductive success of the plant species.
Project description:Some neotropical, fleshy-fruited plants have fruits structurally similar to paleotropical fruits dispersed by megafauna (mammals > 10(3) kg), yet these dispersers were extinct in South America 10-15 Kyr BP. Anachronic dispersal systems are best explained by interactions with extinct animals and show impaired dispersal resulting in altered seed dispersal dynamics.We introduce an operational definition of megafaunal fruits and perform a comparative analysis of 103 Neotropical fruit species fitting this dispersal mode. We define two megafaunal fruit types based on previous analyses of elephant fruits: fruits 4-10 cm in diameter with up to five large seeds, and fruits > 10 cm diameter with numerous small seeds. Megafaunal fruits are well represented in unrelated families such as Sapotaceae, Fabaceae, Solanaceae, Apocynaceae, Malvaceae, Caryocaraceae, and Arecaceae and combine an overbuilt design (large fruit mass and size) with either a single or few (< 3 seeds) extremely large seeds or many small seeds (usually > 100 seeds). Within-family and within-genus contrasts between megafaunal and non-megafaunal groups of species indicate a marked difference in fruit diameter and fruit mass but less so for individual seed mass, with a significant trend for megafaunal fruits to have larger seeds and seediness.Megafaunal fruits allow plants to circumvent the trade-off between seed size and dispersal by relying on frugivores able to disperse enormous seed loads over long-distances. Present-day seed dispersal by scatter-hoarding rodents, introduced livestock, runoff, flooding, gravity, and human-mediated dispersal allowed survival of megafauna-dependent fruit species after extinction of the major seed dispersers. Megafauna extinction had several potential consequences, such as a scale shift reducing the seed dispersal distances, increasingly clumped spatial patterns, reduced geographic ranges and limited genetic variation and increased among-population structuring. These effects could be extended to other plant species dispersed by large vertebrates in present-day, defaunated communities.
Project description:Vertical seed dispersal, i.e. seed dispersal towards a higher or lower altitude, is considered a critical process for plant escape from climate change. However, studies exploring vertical seed dispersal are scarce, and thus, its direction, frequency, and mechanisms are little known. In the temperate zone, evaluating vertical seed dispersal of animal-dispersed plants fruiting in autumn and/or winter is essential considering the dominance of such plants in temperate forests. We hypothesized that their seeds are dispersed towards lower altitudes because of the downhill movement of frugivorous animals following the autumn-to-winter phenology of their food plants which proceeds from the mountain tops to the foot in the temperate zone. We evaluated the vertical seed dispersal of the autumn-fruiting wild kiwi, Actinidia arguta, which is dispersed by temperate mammals. We collected dispersed seeds from mammal faeces in the Kanto Mountains of central Japan and estimated the distance of vertical seed dispersal using the oxygen isotope ratios of the dispersed seeds. We found the intensive downhill seed dispersal of wild kiwi by all seed dispersers, except the raccoon dog (bear: mean -393.1 m; marten: -245.3 m; macaque: -98.5 m; and raccoon dog: +4.5 m). Mammals with larger home ranges dispersed seeds longer towards the foot of the mountains. Furthermore, we found that seeds produced at higher altitudes were dispersed a greater distance towards the foot of the mountains. Altitudinal gradients in autumn-to-winter plant phenology and other mountain characteristics, i.e. larger surface areas and more attractive human crops at lower altitudes compared to higher altitudes, were considered drivers of downhill seed dispersal via animal movement. Strong downhill seed dispersal by mammals suggests that populations of autumn-to-winter fruiting plants dispersed by animals may not be able to sufficiently escape from current global warming in the temperate zone.
Project description:Seed dispersal selection pressures may cause morphological differences in cone structure and seed traits of large-seeded pine trees. We investigated the cone, seed, and scale traits of four species of animal-dispersed pine trees to explore the adaptations of morphological structures to different dispersers. The four focal pines analyzed in this study were Chinese white pine (Pinus armandi), Korean pine (P. koraiensis), Siberian dwarf pine (P. pumila), and Dabieshan white pine (P. dabeshanensis). There are significant differences in the traits of the cones and seeds of these four animal-dispersed pines. The scales of Korean pine and Siberian dwarf pine are somewhat opened after cone maturity, the seeds are closely combined with scales, and the seed coat and scales are thick. The cones of Chinese white pine and Dabieshan white pine are open after ripening, the seeds fall easily from the cones, and the seed coat and seed scales are relatively thin. The results showed that the cone structure of Chinese white pine is similar to that of Dabieshan white pine, whereas Korean pine and Siberian dwarf pine are significantly different from the other two pines and vary significantly from each other. This suggests that species with similar seed dispersal strategies exhibit similar morphological adaptions. Accordingly, we predicted three possible seed dispersal paradigms for animal-dispersed pines: the first, as represented by Chinese white pine and Dabieshan white pine, relies upon small forest rodents for seed dispersal; the second, represented by Korean pine, relies primarily on birds and squirrels to disperse the seeds; and the third, represented by Siberian dwarf pine, relies primarily on birds for seed dispersal. Our study highlights the significance of animal seed dispersal in shaping cone morphology, and our predictions provide a theoretical framework for research investigating the coevolution of large-seeded pines and their seed dispersers.