Lasting effects of avian-frugivore interactions on seed dispersal and seedling establishment

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Elena Quintero , Juan M. Arroyo, Rodolfo Dirzo, Pedro Jordano, Francisco Rodríguez-Sánchez


1 - The outcomes of plant-animal interactions often transcend the mere encounter stage, as those encounters are followed by a chain of subsequent stages on the plant’s reproductive cycle that ultimately determine fitness. In particular, the dissemination and recruitment stages of animal-mediated seed dispersal are seldom jointly analysed, hindering a full understanding of the ecology of seed dispersal.
2 - We analyse the dispersal and recruitment stages of a fleshy-fruited plant (Pistacia lentiscus), from fruit production to seedling survival up to their second year. We link early reproductive investment of individual plants to seedling recruitment and explore the role played by seed viability, the coterie of frugivores and microhabitat seed deposition.
3 - The proportion of viable seeds was generally low (mean = 34%) but highly variable among individual plants (range: 0 - 95%). Seed viability did not seem to have a direct effect on individual plant’s recruitment.
4 - Frugivore effects on plant recruitment were mainly determined by variations in fruit consumption and probability to disperse viable seeds. The quality of their post-dispersal effects was highly similar, yet frugivores varied in foraging patterns across the landscape. The resulting seed rain pattern was abundant, spatially spread, and clumped, where frugivores performed an uneven seed contribution to different microhabitats. Such non-random microhabitat preferences may have large effects on vegetation dynamics.
5 - We detected minor differences in microhabitat suitability for seed arrival and subsequent seedling growth. These differences were sufficient to detect turnovers between seed rain abundance and seedling recruitment abundance, suggesting a decoupling of the dissemination and recruitment stages.
6 - Post-dispersal rodent seed predation and seedling emergence emerged as the demographic stages most limiting in P. lentiscus recruitment.
7 - Synthesis - We estimate P. lentiscus plants need to produce c. 5x105 fruits to recruit a single seedling that survives to its second summer in our study site. Its success as a prevalent species in Mediterranean lowland landscapes relies on thorough fruit removal and dispersal by a diversified frugivore assemblage whose ecological service compensates for high seed unviability characteristic of this genus.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences


Doñana National Park., Doñana National Park, frugivores, microhabitat, post-dispersal predation, seedling survival, seed viability, seed-dispersal, recruitment, Pistacia lentiscus, redundancy, frugivores, microhabitat, post-dispersal predation, seedling survival, seed viability, seed-dispersal, recruitment


Published: 2023-09-13 12:04


CC-By Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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