The role of avian frugivores in germination of seeds of fleshy-fruited invasive alien plants
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Many highly invasive plant species have fleshy fruits which are eaten by native frugivorous animals. These frugivores play an important role in long-distance seed dispersal, and may also affect germination success. The aim of this study was to determine whether generalist frugivores enhance or decrease seed germination of invasive alien species through pulp removal or seed coat abrasion, besides serving as dispersal agents. Fruits of four fleshyfruited invasive alien plant species, namely Solanum mauritianum, Cinnamomum camphora, Lantana camara and Psidium guajava, were fed to three generalist avian frugivorous species, which have been observed feeding on these fruits in the wild. Seed retention time was recorded as this affects dispersal distance and the duration that seeds are exposed to the effects of the gut. Seeds removed from excreta, seeds from manually de-pulped fruit, and whole fruit were planted in soil trays housed in a greenhouse. Daily germination counts were done. Seed retention times differed significantly between bird species for all fruits, except those of C. camphora. However, all frugivores had a similar effect on the germination success of seeds of S. mauritianum, L. camara and P. guajava, showing that gut retention time was not important. Germination of seeds from manually de-pulped fruits did not differ from that of ingested seeds of all plant species, suggesting that seed coat abrasion was also not important. Pulp removal resulted in significantly higher germination rates, both in the two species with larger, multi-seeded fruit (S. mauritianum and P. guajava), and in the two species having single-seeded fruit with waxy exocarps (C. camphora and L. camara). Pulp removal also resulted in significantly earlier germination of L. camara and P. guajava seeds. Therefore, frugivores not only accelerate dispersal, but also greatly enhance seed germination of all fleshy-fruited invasive alien species in this study.
- RESEARCH: Johnson S