Impacts of land use change on seed removal patterns of native and exotic species in a forest landscape
Land use changes may alter seed consumption patterns by vertebrates in forest landscapes. However, while some studies reported increased seed removal rates from the interior of forest patches towards the surrounding matrix habitat, other studies showed the opposite pattern. These inconsistencies perhaps occur because most of these experiments were focused on species with similar seed traits, instead of including species with different seed traits, and because they have not considered that seeds of different species can be available at the same time across the landscape. Further, it is also important to consider that land use changes may promote the spread of exotic species, which may introduce an additional source of seeds into these landscapes. This study focused on experimentally assessing whether native species with different seed traits are differentially removed across the contrasting habitat types of a temperate forest affected by land use changes, and to determine whether seeds of native and exotic species are differentially removed when they are simultaneously available. For this, our experiment included three native species (red maple, black cherry and red oak) and an exotic species (the tree of heaven), whose seeds were placed at the matrix habitat (abandoned agricultural fields), at the edges of forest patches, and at two distances inwards forest patches (40 and 100 m). Overall, seed removal rates of native species decreased from the interior of forest patches towards the abandoned fields, suggesting that the habitat type in which seeds are placed would be more important than seed traits in determining their removal rates across the landscape. Conversely, the exotic species showed higher removal rates at abandoned fields, suggesting that land use changes would differentially affect seed removal of native and exotic species.
KeywordsAnthropic disturbances Plant invasions Seed consumers Seed ecology Temperate forest
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