Complementary endozoochorous seed dispersal by large mammals in the Golestan National Park, Iran
MetadataShow full item record
Large animals tend to disperse seeds over long distances via ingestion and defecation due to their large home range and capacity to move among different habitats for feeding. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential of endozoochorous seed dispersal by five herbivores: Ovis vignei, Capra aegagrus, Gazella subgutturosa, Cervus elaphus, Capreolus capreolus and two omnivores: Sus Scrofa and Ursus arctos in the Golestan National Park, northeast of Iran, by a greenhouse germination experiment. A total of 3107 seedlings belonging to 154 different plant taxa were germinated from 655 dung samples collected in three different habitats. Plant families that most frequently germinated were Poaceae and Brassicaceae. Urtica dioica was the most abundant germinating seed, accounting for 20% of all the seedlings recorded in our dung samples, whereas the most frequently observed species was Portulaca oleracea, which occurred in 24% of our samples. We showed that 54% of the seeds germinating were dispersed by only one of the mammals studied. Herbs and graminoids were the most frequently dispersed growth forms by the herbivores and the wild boar, whereas brown bears mostly dispersed shrubs. The seedling composition in the dung samples was strongly correlated with the local flora especially for non-selective feeders, like red deer. The differences observed in the number of plants and frequency of different growth forms dispersed among the studied mammals reflect their body size, digestive physiology, and dietary and habitat preferences. Our findings highlight the different and complementary roles of large herbivores and omnivores as long-distance seed dispersal vectors.
- RESEARCH: CIB Associates