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An invasive tree alters the structure of seed dispersal networks between birds and plants in French Polynesia

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Aim  We studied how the abundance of the highly invasive fruit‐bearing tree Miconia calvescens DC. influences seed dispersal networks and the foraging patterns of three avian frugivores.

Location  Tahiti and Moorea, French Polynesia.

Methods  Our study was conducted at six sites which vary in the abundance of M. calvescens. We used dietary data from three frugivores (two introduced, one endemic) to determine whether patterns of fruit consumption are related to invasive tree abundance. We constructed seed dispersal networks for each island to evaluate how patterns of interaction between frugivores and plants shift at highly invaded sites.

Results  Two frugivores increased consumption of M. calvescens fruit at highly invaded sites and decreased consumption of other dietary items. The endemic fruit dove, Ptilinopus purpuratus, consumed more native fruit than either of the two introduced frugivores (the red‐vented bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer, and the silvereye, Zosterops lateralis), and introduced frugivores showed a low potential to act as dispersers of native plants. Network patterns on the highly invaded island of Tahiti were dominated by introduced plants and birds, which were responsible for the majority of plant–frugivore interactions.

Main conclusions  Shifts in the diet of introduced birds, coupled with reduced populations of endemic frugivores, caused differences in properties of the seed dispersal network on the island of Tahiti compared to the less invaded island of Moorea. These results demonstrate that the presence of invasive fruit‐bearing plants and introduced frugivores can alter seed dispersal networks, and that the patterns of alteration depend both on the frugivore community and on the relative abundance of available fruit.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, 130 Mulford Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3041, USA 2: Délégation à la Recherche, P.P. 20981 Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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