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Predators and dispersers: Context-dependent outcomes of the interactions between rodents and a megafaunal fruit plant

Citation

Loayza, Andrea; Luna, Claudia; Calviño-Cancela, Maria (2020), Predators and dispersers: Context-dependent outcomes of the interactions between rodents and a megafaunal fruit plant , Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.c866t1g3q

Abstract

Many plant species bear fruits that suggest adaptation to seed dispersal by extinct megafauna. Present-day seed dispersal of these megafaunal plants is carried out by rodents, which can act as predators or dispersers; whether this interaction is primarily positive or negative can depend on the context. Here, we parameterized a stochastic model using data from the field and experimental arenas to estimate the effect of rodents on the recruitment of Myrcianthes coquimbensis -an Atacama Desert shrub with megafaunal fruits- and examine whether environmental conditions can alter the sign and strength of these rodent-plant interactions. We show that the outcome of these interactions is context-dependent: in wet conditions seed removal by rodents negatively impacts the recruitment probability of M. coquimbensis; in contrast, in dry conditions, the interaction with rodents increases recruitment success. In all cases, the strength of the effect of rodents on the recruitment success was determined mainly by their role as dispersers, which could be positive or negative. This study demonstrates that by caching seeds, rodents can be effective dispersers of a megafaunal fruit plant, but that the sign and magnitude of their effect on recruitment changes as a function of the environmental context in which the interaction occurs.

Methods

Seed processing by rodents was collected from experimental arenas.

Seedling emergence was monitored in field conditions during 2015.

Funding

Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico, Award: 11140400

Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad (IEB), Chile

Universidad de La Serena

Universidad de La Serena, Award: PT14122