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Title

The role of the brown bear Ursus arctos as a legitimate megafaunal seed disperser

AuthorsGarcía-Rodríguez, Alberto; Albrecht, Jörg; Szczutkowska, Sylwia; Valido, Alfredo ; Farwing, Nina; Selva, Nuria
KeywordsEcology
Ecosystem services
Seed distribution
Issue Date14-Jan-2021
PublisherNature Research
CitationScientific Reports 11, 1282: 1-11 (2021)
AbstractMegafaunal frugivores can consume large amounts of fruits whose seeds may be dispersed over long distances, thus, affecting plant regeneration processes and ecosystem functioning. We investigated the role of brown bears (Ursus arctos) as legitimate megafaunal seed dispersers. We assessed the quantity component of seed dispersal by brown bears across its entire distribution based on information about both the relative frequency of occurrence and species composition of fleshy fruits in the diet of brown bears extracted from the literature. We assessed the quality component of seed dispersal based on germination experiments for 11 fleshy-fruited plant species common in temperate and boreal regions and frequently eaten by brown bears. Across its distribution, fleshy fruits, on average, represented 24% of the bear food items and 26% of the total volume consumed. Brown bears consumed seeds from at least 101 fleshy-fruited plant species belonging to 24 families and 42 genera, of which Rubus (Rosaceae) and Vaccinium (Ericaceae) were most commonly eaten. Brown bears inhabiting Mediterranean forests relied the most on fleshy fruits and consumed the largest number of species per study area. Seeds ingested by bears germinated at higher percentages than those from whole fruits, and at similar percentages than manually depulped seeds. We conclude that brown bears are legitimate seed dispersers as they consume large quantities of seeds that remain viable after gut passage. The decline of these megafaunal frugivores may compromise seed dispersal services and plant regeneration processes.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80440-9
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/226824
DOIhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-80440-9
E-ISSN2045-2322
Appears in Collections:(IPNA) Artículos
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