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Fleshy-fruited invasive shrubs indirectly increase native tree seed dispersal

Citation

Vergara-Tabares, David (2021), Fleshy-fruited invasive shrubs indirectly increase native tree seed dispersal, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4qrfj6q9d

Abstract

Biological invasions are one of the main threats to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in the Anthropocene. Fleshy-fruited invasive plants establish mutualistic interactions with native seed dispersers and may affect the mutualisms between native partners, negatively by disrupting plant dispersal through competition for seed dispersers or positively by facilitating seed dispersal via the attraction of fruit-eating animals. Moreover, the invaders’ density in the neighborhood of native plants may modulate the direction and/or magnitude of such effects on natives. In mountains of central Argentina, the cessation of fruiting of the dominant native tree Lithraea molleoides overlaps with the beginning of the fruiting of invasive shrubs (Pyracantha spp.). This partial overlap allows for testing opposite predictions regarding the effect of invasive fruits on native seed dispersal. We compared frugivory by seed disperser birds on L. molleoides during non-overlapping and overlapping periods, at six sites that differed in Pyracantha shrub density (high, low, and no invasion). We counted frugivory during 2-hours on 15 individuals of L. molleoides at each site and period, totaling 360 h of observation. Frugivory on the native tree was similar among sites during the nonoverlapping period and remained constant in both periods at noninvaded sites. At invaded sites, frugivory increased from non-overlapping to overlapping period and was greater at highly invaded sites. The resource provided by Pyracantha did not disrupt seed dispersal of the dominant native tree. Rather, it facilitated frugivory by seed dispersers and this effect may be exacerbated with higher fruit availability of invasives. Our results provide a counterview to the prevailingly negative impacts of invasive species on the seed dispersal of native species since the fruiting of invasive plants facilitated the seed dispersal of native species in a continental region contrasts with the mutualism disruption commonly observed in insular environments.

Funding

Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas