, Volume 145, Issue 1, pp 115-123

Seed predation and dispersal in relict Scots pine forests in southern Spain

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For two years, the seed rain and magnitude of seed losses due to predation were evaluated in Scots pine forests in southern Spain. The Crossbill was the most important pre-dispersal predator, consuming more than 80% of ripening seeds. In addition, other birds, mainly Tits and Siskin, also consumed seeds just before seed dispersal, reaching values of 16 and 51% losses in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Seed rain was monitored in different microhabitats (under pine canopies, under shrubs and in open areas), and was most intense under the canopy of mother plants both years. Post-dispersal seed predators (rodents and birds) consumed up to 96% of seeds reaching the ground. Both pre- and post-dispersal seed predators preferentially harvested filled seeds. Post-dispersal predation was similarly intense in all microhabitats, so predators did not change the spatial distribution of the seed rain. These high predation rates were constant between years, localities and habitats (woodland and treeline). We hypothesize that this high rate of seed predation is a major factor limiting the regeneration of these relict populations of Scots pine in its southernmost limit.