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Landscape effects on jay foraging behavior decrease acorn dispersal services in dehesas

AuthorsMorán-López, Teresa; Alonso, César Luis; Díaz Esteban, Mario
Issue Date11-Sep-2015
CitationActa Oecologica 69: 52-64 (2015)
Abstract© 2015 Elsevier Masson SAS. Dehesas are savanna-like, oak woodlands with a high conservation value that are threatened by chronic regeneration failure. Acorn dispersal by Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) is vital for oak recruitment although jay preference for continuous forests may condition this mutualism in dehesas. In this study, we evaluated whether the acorn dispersal services provided by jays to oaks differed between both habitats and assessed factors that could potentially drive such differences. We (1) monitored acorn removal rates at feeders located close to focal trees in a holm oak (Quercus ilex) forest and in a nearby dehesa over a 6-year period; (2) measured the spatial traits of focal trees and their acorn production; and (3) monitored dispersal distances and microhabitat selection for acorn caching during 2012. Our results indicated that jays were able to exploit dehesas located close to forest habitats, but did so infrequently and as a secondary food source (acorn removal rates were six times lower in dehesa than in nearby forests). This likely occurred because dehesas did not offer new or more abundant food sources on a landscape scale. In forests, tree choice was driven by crop traits while in dehesas it was driven by spatial location. Jays preferentially foraged at dehesa trees near forest patches and aggregated to other trees, regardless of crop traits. Acorns were mobilized four times closer in dehesas, and seeds were preferentially cached in unsuitable microhabitats for seedling establishment. Our results suggest that (i) distance to forest habitats and tree isolation effects on jay foraging behavior reduces their dispersal services in dehesas as compared to nearby forests, and (ii) practices designed to enhance acorn dispersal by jays in this habitat should focus on the maintenance or creation of forest patches interspersed within dehesa areas.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.actao.2015.07.006
issn: 1146-609X
e-issn: 1873-6238
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