Seed Removal Rates Under Isolated Trees and Continuous Vegetation in Semiarid Thornscrub


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Clearing native vegetation to increase the amount of land available for agriculture in northeastern Mexico has left remnants ranging in size from fragments of continuous vegetation to isolated individual trees. These provide valuable opportunities for restoring larger areas of native vegetation. We explored whether fragmentation of Tamaulipan thornscrub affects the removal of seeds from 12 woody species that encompass a range of sizes and dispersal mechanisms. We tested whether (1) seed removal rates under isolated trees were higher than under continuous vegetation; (2) dispersal structures, such as fleshy pericarps, made some seeds more attractive to seed removers; and (3) microenvironmental variation affected seed removal rates. Seeds were placed under canopies of Texas ebony (Ebenopsis ebano) and Mesquite trees (Prosopis laevigata). Seed removal trials were conducted three times, each trial lasting 30 days. Most seeds were removed in all trials by the end of one month. Seed removal rate was slower under isolated trees. In general, fleshy fruits were removed faster than other fruits; whole fruits and fleshy tissue were removed faster than depulped seeds. In species with fleshy pericarps, acid washing of seeds, to simulate seeds processed in the digestive tract of dispersers, reduced the seed removal rates, suggesting that it would be a good pre-treatment for restoration efforts.