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Keywords:

  • frugivore-dispersed plants;
  • secondary seed dispersal;
  • seed-eating rodents;
  • seed predation;
  • seed traits

Abstract

By tracking the fate of individual seeds from 6 frugivore-dispersed plants with contrasting seed traits in a fragmented subtropical forest in Southwest China, we explored how rodent seed predation and hoarding were influenced by seed traits such as seed size, seed coat hardness and seed profitability. Post-dispersal seed fates varied significantly among the 6 seed species and 3 patterns were witnessed: large-seeded species with a hard seed coat (i.e. Choerospoadias axillaries and Diospyros kaki var. silvestris) had more seeds removed, cached and then surviving at caches, and they also had fewer seeds predated but a higher proportion of seeds surviving at the source; medium-sized species with higher profitability and thinner seed coat (i.e. Phoebe zhennan and Padus braohypoda) were first harvested and had the lowest probability of seeds surviving either at the source or at caches due to higher predation before or after removal; and small-seeded species with lower profitability (i.e. Elaeocarpus japonicas and Cornus controversa) had the highest probability of seeds surviving at the source but the lowest probability of seeds surviving at caches due to lower predation at the source and lower hoarding at caches. Our study indicates that patterns of seed predation, dispersal and survival among frugivore-dispersed plants are highly determined by seed traits such as seed size, seed defense and seed profitability due to selective predation and hoarding by seed-eating rodents. Therefore, trait-mediated seed predation, dispersal and survival via seed-eating rodents can largely affect population and community dynamics of frugivore-dispersed plants in fragmented forests.