Linking the pattern to the mechanism: How an introduced mammal facilitates plant invasions



Non-native mammals that are disturbance agents can promote non-native plant invasions, but to date there is scant evidence on the mechanisms behind this pattern. We used wild boar (Sus scrofa) as a model species to evaluate the role of non-native mammals in promoting plant invasion by identifying the degree to which soil disturbance and endozoochorous seed dispersal drive plant invasions. To test if soil disturbance promotes plant invasion, we conducted an exclosure experiment in which we recorded emergence, establishment and biomass of seedlings of seven non-native plant species planted in no-rooting, boar-rooting and artificial rooting patches in Patagonia, Argentina. To examine the role of boar in dispersing seeds we germinated viable seeds from 181 boar droppings and compared this collection to the soil seed bank by collecting a soil sample adjacent to each dropping. We found that both establishment and biomass of non-native seedlings in boar-rooting patches were double those in no-rooting patches. Values in artificial rooting patches were intermediate between those in boar-rooting and no-rooting treatments. By contrast, we found that the proportion of non-native seedlings in the soil samples was double that in the droppings, and over 80% of the germinated seeds were native species in both samples. Lastly, an effect size test showed that soil disturbance by wild boar rather than endozoochorous dispersal facilitates plant invasions. These results have implications for both the native and introduced ranges of wild boar, where rooting disturbance may facilitate community composition shifts.