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Hierarchical mechanisms of spatially contagious seed dispersal in complex seed-disperser networks

AuthorsFedriani, José M. ; Wiegand, Thorsten
KeywordsSpatial points pattern analysis
Seed-disperser networks
Mediterranean schrublands
Mammals: Mark correlation functions
Invariant proprieties
Associatonal affects
Doñana National Park
fleshy fruits
Issue Date2014
PublisherEcological Society of America
CitationEcology 95: 514- 526 (2014)
AbstractIntra- and interspecific spatially contagious seed dispersal has far-reaching implications for plant recruitment, distribution, and community assemblage. However, logistical and analytical limitations have curtailed our understanding concerning the mechanisms and resulting spatial patterns of contagious seed dispersal in most systems and, especially, in complex seed-disperser networks. We investigated mechanisms of seed aggregation using techniques of spatial point pattern analysis and extensive data sets on mutispecific endozoochorous seed rain generated by five frugivorous mammals in three Mediterranean shrublands over two seasons. Our novel analytical approach revealed three hierarchical and complementary mechanisms of seed aggregation acting at different levels (fecal samples, seeds, pairs of seed species) and spatial scales. First, the three local guilds of frugivores tended to deliver their feces highly aggregated at small and intermediate spatial scales, and the overall pattern of fecal delivery could be described well by a nested doublecluster Thomas process. Second, once the strong observed fecal aggregation was accounted for, the distribution of mammal feces containing seeds was clustered within the pattern of all feces (i.e., with and without seeds), and the density of fecal samples containing seeds was higher than expected around other feces containing seeds in two out of the three studied seeddisperser networks. Finally, at a finer level, mark correlation analyses revealed that for some plant species pairs, the number of dispersed seeds was positively associated either at small or large spatial scales. Despite the relatively invariant patterning of nested double-clustering, some attributes of endozoochorous seed rain (e.g., intensity, scales of aggregation) were variable among study sites due to changes in the ecological context in which seeds and their dispersers interact. Our investigation disentangles for the first time the hierarchy of synergic mechanisms of spatially contagious seed dispersal at a range of spatial scales in complex seeddisperser networks, thus providing a robust and widely applicable framework for future studies. © 2014 by the Ecological Society of America.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1890/13-0718.1
issn: 0012-9658
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