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Cassowary dispersal of the invasive pond apple in a tropical rainforest: the contribution of subordinate dispersal modes in invasion

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Dispersal is a significant determinant of the pattern and process of invasions; however, weed dispersal distances are rarely described and descriptions of dispersal kernels are completely lacking for vertebrate-dispersed weeds. Here, we describe dispersal kernels generated by a native disperser, the endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius, L.) for an invasive, tropical rainforest plant, pond apple (Annona glabra, L.). Pond apple is primarily water-dispersed and is managed as such. We consider whether cassowary dispersal, as a numerically subordinate dispersal mode, provides an additional dispersal service that may modify the invasion process. In infested areas, pond apple seed was common in cassowary dung. Gut passage had no effect on the probability of single seed germination but deposition in clumps or as whole fruits reduced the probability of germination below that of single seeds. Gut passage times ranged from 65 to 1675 min. Combined with cassowary movement data, this resulted in estimated dispersal distances of 12.5–5212 m, with a median distance of 387 m (quartile range 112–787 m). Native frugivores can be effective dispersers of weeds in rainforest and even terrestrial dispersers can provide long-distance dispersal. Importantly, though pond apple might be expected to be almost entirely dispersed downstream and along the margins of aquatic and marine habitats, cassowaries provide dispersal upstream and between drainages, leading to novel dispersal outcomes. Even through the provision of small quantities of novel dispersal outcomes, subordinate dispersal modes can play a significant role in determining invasion pattern and influence the ultimate success of control programs by providing dispersal to locations unattainable via the primary mode.

Keywords: Biological invasions; dispersal kernels; invasion; long-distance dispersal; pond apple; rainforest; seed dispersal

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: CSIRO, Sustainable Ecosystems and the Rainforest CRC, PO Box 780, Atherton, Qld 4883, Australia,

Publication date: March 1, 2008


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