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Seasonal variation in impact of non-native species on tropical seed dispersal networks

Cite this dataset

Costa, Alba et al. (2022). Seasonal variation in impact of non-native species on tropical seed dispersal networks [Dataset]. Dryad.


Invasive non-native species can alter animal-mediated seed dispersal interactions and ultimately affect the stability of recipient communities. The degree of such disturbances, however, is highly variable and depends on several factors, two of which have received little attention: the relative timing of native and non-native fruiting phenologies, and the associated variation in relative resource availability across the fruiting period. Both are likely to alter plant-seed disperser interactions threatened by biological invasions. Here we investigated the impact of plant invasions on the seasonal dynamics of frugivory and seed dispersal networks across a large-scale experimental setup and a plant invasion gradient on a tropical island. We recorded fruit and frugivore abundances, and plant-frugivore interactions across 8 inselbergs (i.e. rocky outcrops) with different levels of plant invasion during 10 months on the island of Mahé, Seychelles. By combining four sampling methods of plant-frugivore interactions we constructed quantitative seed dispersal networks at all sites across two 5-month seasons: the on-peak and off-peak fruiting season. Our findings showed that, by fruiting mostly synchronously with natives, non-native plants compete with natives for dispersal services, predominantly carried out by native frugivores. Variation in native seed dispersal was driven by plant invasion and seasonality. Specifically, native seed dispersal declined with the degree of invasion; dispersal frequency increased with fruit abundance more strongly during the off-peak fruiting season; and networks became increasingly specialised during off-peak. These results indicated that during the main fruiting peak seed dispersal services were saturated, which likely intensified the competition between native and non-native fruits. When resources were scarce during off-peak fruiting season, native and non-native frugivores were more selective in their fruit choice at sites dominated by non-native plants. We showed that native plant and frugivore populations and native seed dispersal interactions were more vulnerable in invaded plant communities, where non-native plants compete with natives for dispersal services potentially reducing native recruitment. As invasive non-native plants dominate many ecosystems worldwide, particularly on islands, our findings showed that controlling plant invasions in vulnerable native communities can be critical to maintain native ecosystem functions and biodiversity.


German Research Foundation, Award: KA 3349/2-2

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Award: UID/BIA/04004/2020