Estimating human-mediated dispersal of seeds within an Australian protected area
Dispersal is critical step in plant invasions but there is limited information about human-mediated long distance seed dispersal, including in protected areas. Seed dispersal by hikers was quantified for five invasive species (the native Acaena novae-zelandiae, and the non-native weeds Rumex acetosellaAnthoxanthum odoratum, Dactylis glomerata and Festuca rubra) in part of Australia’s Kosciuszko National Park. The proportion of seeds remaining attached to trousers and socks was quantified for replicated short (150 m) and long (5,000 m) distance walks. Functions were fitted for each dataset, and parameters compared among species and between trousers and socks. Dispersal data were combined with attachment rates and the number of people undertaking walks to estimate the total number of weed seeds that might be dispersed. The power exponential function gave the best fit for the majority of datasets, indicating that detachment probability decreased with distance. Seeds of all five species were more tightly attached to socks than trousers, with some seeds still present on socks at 5,000 m. Anthoxanthum and Acaena seeds were more tightly attached to clothing than the other species. Theoretically 1.9 million seeds could be dispersed on socks or 2.4 million seeds on trousers through a season but the actual numbers are likely to be much lower because of limited weed seed at the start of the walks. Because of differences in attachment and detachment rates, seeds from Acaena were more likely to be dispersed longer distances. Long distance human-mediated seed dispersal is potentially a major cause of spread of invasive weeds into protected areas that favours some invasive species over others.