Seed predation by rodents results in directed dispersal of viable seed fragments of an endangered desert shrub
Seed predation and seed dispersal are important ecological processes with antagonistic effects on plant recruitment. In the southern edge of the Atacama Desert in Chile, Myrcianthes coquimbensis is an endangered, large-seeded, vertebrate-dispersed shrub that in the present-day has no known dispersers. Native rodents hoard and eat the seeds of M. coquimbensis but leave viable seed fragments at the hoarding sites; soil interspaces within rock outcrops where seedlings recruit. Here we examined whether rodents act as effective dispersers of M. coquimbensis by discarding viable seed fragments in sites suitable for recruitment. We simulated different levels of endosperm loss to determine if seedlings could develop from seed fragments. We assessed how frequently rodents discarded fragments, and the probability that these fragments produced seedlings. Finally, we compared emergence and seedling survival at the hoarding sites and in two other habitats where seeds arrive to evaluate the suitability of the hoarding sites. Seeds of M. coquimbensis developed seedlings even after 87% of their storage tissue was removed. Rodents left seed fragments in more than 50% of the trials; almost 60% of the discarded fragments produced seedlings. Seedlings did not emerge from open ground habitats, and emergence was higher under M. coquimbensis shrubs than in rock habitats. Survival of two-year-old seedlings was higher in rock habitats than under conspecific adult shrubs. Our results suggest that rodents may play a dual role in the recruitment dynamics of M. coquimbensis, acting simultaneously as seed predators and effective dispersers. Therefore, though seed predators impose costs, their net effect on plant fitness in this system-where dispersers of large-seeded species have been lost-is likely positive.
|Título según WOS:||Seed predation by rodents results in directed dispersal of viable seed fragments of an endangered desert shrub|
|Título según SCOPUS:||Seed predation by rodents results in directed dispersal of viable seed fragments of an endangered desert shrub|
|Título de la Revista:||ECOSPHERE|
|Fecha de publicación:||2014|
|Notas:||ISI, SCOPUS - ISI|