Ecological Research

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 851–861

Land-use and edge effects unbalance seed dispersal and predation interactions under habitat fragmentation

  • Ainhoa Magrach
  • José Guitián
  • Asier R. Larrinaga
  • Javier Guitián
Original Article


The process of fragmentation can greatly influence plant–animal interactions. To assess the degree to which it affects the balance between two interactions of opposite sign, namely seed dispersal and post-dispersal seed predation, we selected 16 patches of chestnut forest in O Courel and El Bierzo, northwestern Spain. We assessed the effect of fragmentation over two different seed dispersal–predation systems using Helleborus foetidus and Ilex aquifolium as model species. In the first case, field experiments consisted of seed-offering trays with selective exclusion of rodents and ants in a two-way orthogonal design. In the second experiment, we placed experimental branches and trays on the floor to assess seed dispersal and predation. The interactions between several fragment traits and the relative contribution of rodents, ants and birds to seed removal were analyzed by means of generalized linear mixed models. Results show that for H. foetidus, differences in seed dispersal–predation were accounted for by patch shape, which affected mainly the dispersal phase. Major seed dispersal took place in patches with a smaller edge to core ratio and high plant cover (abandoned patches), whilst the latter also showed maximum seed predation. For I. aquifolium, fragmentation effects were significant only for seed predation, which was increased in abandoned patches. This shows that the effects of habitat fragmentation can emerge at different phases depending on specific traits of the interacting animals. It also highlights the importance of traditional land-use practices in species interactions.


Plant cover Land-use Seed dispersal Seed predation Chestnut woodland 


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ainhoa Magrach
    • 1
    • 2
  • José Guitián
    • 1
  • Asier R. Larrinaga
    • 3
  • Javier Guitián
    • 4
  1. 1.Area de Ecoloxia, Departamento de Bioloxia Celular e EcoloxiaUSCSantiago de CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Laboratiorio de Ecología EspacialIMEDEA, CSIC-UIBEsporlesSpain
  3. 3.Santiago de CompostelaSpain
  4. 4.Departamento de BotánicaUSCSantiago de CompostelaSpain

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