Crop size is more important than neighborhood fruit availability for fruit removal of Eugenia uniflora (Myrtaceae) by bird seed dispersers
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- Blendinger, P.G. & Villegas, M. Plant Ecol (2011) 212: 889. doi:10.1007/s11258-010-9873-z
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For a plant with bird-dispersed seeds, the effectiveness of seed dispersal can change with fruit availability at scales ranging from individual plants to neighborhoods, and the scale at which frugivory patterns emerge may be specific for frugivorous species differing in their life-history and behavior. The authors explore the influence of multispecies fruit availability at two local spatial scales on fruit consumption of Eugenia uniflora trees for two functional groups of birds. The authors related visitation and fruit removal by fruit gulpers and pulp mashers to crop size and conspecific and heterospecific fruit abundance to assess the potential roles that facilitative or competitive interactions play on seed dispersal. The same fruiting scenario influenced fruit gulpers (legitimate seed dispersers) and pulp mashers (inefficient dispersers) in different ways. Visits and fruit removal by legitimate seed dispersers were positively related to crop size and slightly related to conspecific, but not to heterospecific fruit neighborhoods. Visits and fruit consumption by pulp mashers was not related to crop size and decreased with heterospecific fruit availability in neighborhoods; however, this might not result in competition for dispersers. The weak evidence for facilitative or competitive processes suggest that interaction of E. uniflora with seed dispersers may depend primarily on crop size or other plant’s attributes susceptible to selection. The results give limited support to the hypothesis that spatial patterns of fruit availability influence fruit consumption by birds, and highlight the importance of considering separately legitimate and inefficient dispersers to explain the mechanisms that lie behind spatial patterns of seed dispersal.