Generalist dispersers promote germination of an alien fleshy-fruited tree invading natural grasslandsReport as inadecuate

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Plants with animal-dispersed fruits seem to overcome the barriers that limit their spread into new habitats more easily than other invasive plants and, at the same time, they pose special difficulties for containment, control or eradication. The effects of animals on plant propagules can be very diverse, with positive, neutral or negative consequences for germination and recruitment. Moreover, the environmental conditions where the seeds are deposited and where the post-dispersal processes take place can be crucial for their fate. Prunus mahaleb is a fleshy-fruited tree invading natural grasslands in the Argentine Pampas. In this study, we analyzed the importance of pulp removal, endocarp scarification and the effects of vectors on its germination response, by means of germination experiments both in the laboratory and under semi-natural conditions. Our laboratory results demonstrated that endocarp scarification enhances germination and suggests that vestiges of pulp on the stones have inhibitory effects. Frugivores exert a variety of effects on germination responses and this variation can be explained by their differing influence on pulp removal and endocarp scarification. Most frugivores produced a positive effect on germination under laboratory conditions, in comparison to intact fruits and hand-peeled stones. We observed different degrees of pulp removal from the surface of the stones by the dispersers which was directly correlated to the germination response. On the other hand, all the treatments showed high germination responses under semi-natural conditions suggesting that post-dispersal processes, like seed burial, and the exposure to natural conditions might exert a positive effect on germination response, attenuating the plant-s dependence on the dispersers’ gut treatment. Our results highlight the need to consider the whole seed dispersal process and the value of combining laboratory and field tests.

Author: Martín Raúl Amodeo , María Belén Vázquez, Sergio Martín Zalba



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