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Patterns of resource tracking by avian frugivores at multiple spatial scales: two case studies on discordance among scales

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Scaling is relevant for the analysis of plant-frugivore interaction, since the ecological and evolutionary outcomes of seed dispersal depend on the spatial and temporal scale at which frugivory patterns emerge. We analyse the relationship between fruit abundance and frugivore activity at local and landscape spatial scales in two different systems composed, respectively, by the bird-dispersed woody plants Juniperus communis and Bursera fagaroides, and their frugivore assemblages. We use a hierarchical approach of nested patchiness of fruit-resource, where patches are defined by individual plants within site, at the local scale, and by sites within region, at the landscape scale. The structure of patches is also described in terms of contrast (differences in fruit availability among patches) and aggregation (spatial distribution of patches). For J. communis, frugivore activity was positively related to fruit availability at the landscape scale, this pattern seldom emerging at the local scale; conversely, B. fagaroides showed a general trend of positive local pattern that disappeared at the landscape scale. These particular trends might be partially explained by differences in contrast and aggregation. The strong contrast among plants within site together with a high aggregation among sites would promote the B. fagaroides pattern to be only local, whereas in J. communis, low aggregation among sites within region would favour a sharp landscape-scale pattern. Both systems showed discordant patterns of fruit-resource tracking among consecutive spatial scales, but the sense of discordance differed among systems. These results, and the available multi-scale frugivory data, suggest that discordance among successive scales allows to link directly frugivory patterns to resource-tracking mechanisms acting at particular scales, resulting, thus, more informative than concordance observational data, in which landscape patterns might result from accumulated effect of local mechanisms. In this context, we propose new methodological approaches for a better understanding of the hierarchical behavioural mechanisms underpinning the multi-scale resource tracking by frugivores.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2004

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