Ingestion by an invasive parakeet species reduces germination success of invasive alien plants relative to ingestion by indigenous turaco species in South Africa
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Avian frugivores play a key role in seed dispersal of many plant species, including invasive alien plants. We assessed the effect of gut passage on the germination of selected invasive alien plant species in South Africa. Fruits of four fleshly-fruited invasive alien plant species: Solanum mauritianum, Cinnamomum camphora, Psidium guajava, and Morus alba, were fed to two species of indigenous turacos, Knysna (Tauraco corythaix) and purple-crested (Gallirex porphyreolophus) turacos, and to invasive roseringed parakeets (Psittacula krameri). Seed retention time was determined as this can influence both seed dispersal and germination success. Germination success of ingested seeds was compared with that of manually de-pulped seeds, as well as to seeds in whole fruit. The germination success of seeds of all the invasive plant species increased significantly after ingestion by both turaco species compared with seeds from whole fruits. Germination success of manually de-pulped seeds did not differ significantly from that of turaco ingested seeds. In contrast, seed passage through the digestive tract of rose-ringed parakeets significantly reduced germination success and viability of ingested invasive plant species. Our results suggest that Knysna and purple-crested turacos are legitimate seed dispersers of fleshy-fruited invasive plants, while rose-ringed parakeets are mainly seed predators. Although seed predation by rose-ringed parakeets negatively affects the reproductive success of these plants, it is unlikely that this will suppress the spread of these invasive alien plants in South Africa as they are already well established. Furthermore, they can facilitate dispersal by seed regurgitation and dropping uneaten fruits away from the parent plant. Similar trends could be expected for indigenous seeds that rose-ringed parakeets feed on and therefore these birds remain a negative influence within invaded ecosystems.