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Keywords:

  • Europe;
  • frugivorous birds;
  • fleshy-fruited plants;
  • macroecology;
  • path analysis;
  • species richness;
  • Structural Equation Modelling

ABSTRACT

Aim  We analysed the interdependence of avian frugivore- and fruited plant-species richness at the scale of major river basins across Europe, taking into account several environmental factors along different spatial gradients.

Location  Continental Europe and the British Isles.

Methods  We focused on wintering birds and autumn/winter fruiting plants, and used major river basins as geographical units and Structural Equation Modelling as the principal analytical tool.

Results  The statistical influence of disperser species richness on fleshy-fruited plant species richness is roughly double that of the reverse. Broad-scale variation in frugivore richness is more dependent on environmental factors than on fruited plant richness. However, the influence of disperser richness on plant richness is four times higher than the influence of environmental factors. Environmental influences on both birds and plants are greater than purely spatial influences.

Main conclusions  Our results are interpreted as indicating that biotic dispersal of fruits strongly affects broad-scale geographical trends of fleshy-fruited plant species richness, whereas richness of fruited plants moderately affects frugivore richness.