Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 2787–2801 | Cite as

Seabirds as adhesive seed dispersers of alien and native plants in the oceanic Ogasawara Islands, Japan

  • Yukiko Aoyama
  • Kazuto Kawakami
  • Satoshi Chiba
Original Paper


Previous studies have shown that the dispersal of plant seeds to oceanic islands is largely attributable to birds. However, few studies have assessed the role of adhesive dispersal by birds even though this mechanism has long been recognized as a major vector of seed transport. Some data point to the possibility that adhesive transport by seabirds transfers alien plant seeds in island ecosystems. In the present study, we examined the seed-dispersing ability of seabirds among islands in the oceanic Ogasawara Islands, Japan. We used capture surveys to examine the frequency of seeds adhering to seabirds and tested the salt tolerances of the seeds. The distributions of the plant species were examined and the relationships between plant and seabird distributions were analyzed using generalized linear models. Seeds of nine plant species, including aliens, were detected on 16–32 % of captured seabirds. Seeds included those generally considered to be dispersed by wind or internally transported by birds in their guts. Seeds exposed to NaCl solution isotonic with seawater for up to 8 h suffered little or no loss of viability. Analyses of plant distributions demonstrated positive relationships between the distributions of some plants and seabirds. These results show that seabirds effectively disperse seeds of both native and introduced plant species. This is the first study to comprehensively assess adhesive seed dispersal by seabirds; it provides essential information on long-distance dispersal.


Epizoochory Island flora Long-distance dispersal Oceanic islands Alien species Seabirds 



We thank Kazuo and Harumi Horikoshi, Hajime Suzuki, Tetsuro Sasaki, and Tomohiro Deguchi for field assistance and other support; Minoru and Yukari Masuda, George Minami, Koji Yoshida, and Club Noah for transportation; Chikako Takahashi for help with collecting seeds; Noriko Iwai for help with the laboratory experiment; Hayato Iijima and Masaki Hoso for help with the statistical analysis; Donald R. Drake and members of the Laboratory of Community and Ecosystem Ecology, Tohoku University, for their critical comments; and members of the Department of Wildlife Biology, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute for their generosity. This study was supported by the Global Environment Research Fund of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (F-051) and Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Supplementary material

10531_2012_336_MOESM1_ESM.doc (86 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 85 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Life SciencesTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan
  2. 2.Forestry and Forest Products Research InstituteTsukubaJapan

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