, Volume 154, Issue 1, pp 107–118 | Cite as

The dispersal of vascular plants in a forest mosaic by a guild of mammalian herbivores

  • A. E. EycottEmail author
  • A. R. Watkinson
  • M.-R. Hemami
  • P. M. Dolman
Plant Animal Interactions


Endozochorous seed dispersal by herbivores can affect plant spatial dynamics and macroecological patterns. We have investigated the number and species composition of viable seeds deposited in faeces of a full guild of macroherbivores (four deer and two lagomorph species) in a forest in eastern Britain. One hundred and one plant species germinated from faecal pellet material, 85 of which were among the 247 vascular plant species recorded in the forest. However, three species – Chenopodium album, Urtica dioica and Agrostis stolonifera – comprised 56% of the seedlings recorded. Of the species recorded in faecal samples, 36% had no recognised dispersal mechanism, while very few (7%) were adapted to endozoochorous dispersal (fleshy fruit or nut). The number of species dispersed by the herbivores was ranked Cervus elaphus and Dama dama (96) > Capreolus capreolus (40) > Muntiacus reevesi (31) > Oryctolagus cuniculus (21) > Lepus europaeus (19), with the other taxa dispersing subsets of those dispersed by C. elpahus and D. dama. The invasive M. reevesi deposited the fewest seeds per gram of faecal pellet material (0.4 g−1) and hence fewer seeds per unit area than other deer species despite their numerical dominance, while C. elaphus/D. dama deposited the most (0.43 seeds m−2 year−1). Due to differences in faecal seed density among habitats combined with the ranging behaviour of animals, more seeds were deposited in younger stands, enhancing the potential contribution of macroherbivores to population persistence by dispersal and colonisation in a successional mosaic.


Colonisation Endozoochory Fallow deer Hare Muntjac Rabbit Red deer Roe deer 



We thank the Forestry Commission for permission to work in Thetford Forest and ranger data, ADAS for the arable weed data and Norfolk Wildlife Trust for Wayland Wood data. We are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers who suggested useful improvements. AEE was funded by NERC (award no. NER/S/A/2000/03322) and is grateful to a number of people for assistance in the field. This work was carried out in accordance with the laws of the United Kingdom.

Supplementary material

442_2007_812_MOESM1_ESM.doc (200 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 200 kB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. E. Eycott
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • A. R. Watkinson
    • 1
  • M.-R. Hemami
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. M. Dolman
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  2. 2.Faculty of Natural ResourcesIsfahan University of TechnologyIsfahanIran
  3. 3.Forest ResearchFarnhamUK

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