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Re-established mutualism in a seed-dispersal system consisting of native and introduced birds and plants on the Bonin Islands, Japan

Abstract

The disruption of plant–animal interactions such as seed dispersal is one of the most critical effects of biological invasions. To understand the role of introduced species in current seed-dispersal systems, we conducted fecal analyses of the most common resident land birds on the Bonin Islands, Japan, and estimated their relative importance as seed-dispersal agents. Two native birds, the brown-eared bulbul and the Bonin Islands white-eye, and the introduced Japanese white-eye were the primary seed dispersers in secondary forest sites. Because the seed species composition in the feces of native and introduced white-eyes was similar, the latter may be replacing the former as a seed-dispersal agent. Introduced plants did not decrease the number of seed-dispersal opportunities for native species through competition for seed dispersers. Because some bird species have already become extinct on the Bonin Islands, their ecological functions may also have been permanently lost; however, the introduced white-eye may be compensating for this loss of function. In addition, new mutualistic relationships involving native and introduced birds and plants have already been established. In order to control introduced species while having the least impact on the native biota, interspecific interactions must be thoroughly understood before initiating control efforts.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Masaki Fujita, Emi Sunaga, Minako Murakami, Nanami Kawamura, Naoko Emura, Yutaka Yamamoto, Isao Nishiumi, Kazuhiko Uemura, Hiromi Umeno, and Reina Tazawa for field assistance, Mamoru Kikuchi and Isamu Matsunaga for transportation, Miyuki Mashiko and Chiaki Kitazawa for help with the fecal analysis, and Seiji and Keiko Tazawa for accommodations. We also thank anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This study was supported in part by the Global Environment Research Fund of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan (F-051).

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Correspondence to Kazuto Kawakami.

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Kawakami, K., Mizusawa, L. & Higuchi, H. Re-established mutualism in a seed-dispersal system consisting of native and introduced birds and plants on the Bonin Islands, Japan. Ecol Res 24, 741–748 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11284-008-0543-8

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Keywords

  • Bonin Islands
  • Introduced species
  • Mutualism
  • Oceanic islands
  • Seed dispersal