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Granivory rates by rodents, insects, and birds at different microsites in the Patagonian steppe

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We studied the rates of seed removal by different granivores, in different microsites, at different times, in a Patagonian shrub steppe in South America. Granivory rates of exotic (Phalaris canariensis) and native (Mulinum spinosum) seed species were an order of magnitude lower than those reported for another cool desert from North America with comparable climatic conditions. Insects and rodents removed the greatest amount of seeds in comparison to birds. In general, there were no differences in seed removal across microsites, except at one sampling time (when rodents and insects removed more seeds from bare soil and beside tussocks in comparison to positions beside shrubs, while birds took similar amounts of seeds from all microsites). The length of the experiment differentially affected the granivory rate of different groups. Removal rates (per day) were significantly greater, and exhibited lower variability, when seeds were left for a longer period of time in the field (a month) than for a few days. Insects were more efficient at finding the seeds rapidly and rodents at depleting them; birds could not find or deplete many seeds in short periods of time. Rates of granivory decreased slightly but significantly as the summer progressed mainly due to a reduction of seed removal by birds and rodents but not by insects. Granivores removed an order of magnitude less native seeds than exotic seeds. These differences seemed to be related to palatability as M. spinosum seeds have more phenols, toxic concentrations of iron and copper, and lower dry matter digestibility, phosphorous, and nitrogen content, in comparison to P. canariensis seeds.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2002

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