Linking seed dispersal, germination and seedling recruitment in the invasive species Berberis darwinii (Darwin’s barberry)
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- McAlpine, K.G. & Jesson, L.K. Plant Ecol (2008) 197: 119. doi:10.1007/s11258-007-9365-y
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Seedling recruitment is a multi-phased process involving seed production, dispersal, germination, seedling establishment and subsequent survival. Understanding the factors that determine success at each stage of this process is of particular interest to scientists and managers seeking to understand how invasive species spread and persist, and identify critical stages for management. To understand the factors and processes influencing recruitment of the invasive species Berberis darwinii Hook. (Darwin’s barberry), temporal and spatial patterns of seed dispersal, germination and seedling establishment were examined. Seed dispersal from a large source population was measured over two fruiting seasons, and subsequent patterns of seedling emergence and survival within each cohort were measured. Seed longevity was tested under both natural and artificial conditions. Seeds were widely dispersed by birds, up to 450 m from the source population. Dispersal was essential to seedling establishment, as few seedlings survived beneath the parent canopy. Seeds were relatively short-lived in the soil under both field and glasshouse conditions, with few surviving for more than 1 year. Patterns of newly emerged seedlings largely reflected patterns of seed rain, but seedling survival was significantly affected by distance from source population, seedling density and light environment. These results suggest that recruitment of B. darwinii is dependent on dispersal of seeds to favourable microsites. Management priorities should include the removal of fruiting plants, and seedling control in highlight areas.