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A multi-scale test for dispersal filters in an island plant community

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Constraints on plant distributions resulting from seed limitation (i.e. dispersal filters) were evaluated on two scales of ecological organization on islands off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. First, island plant communities were separated into groups based on fruit morphology, and patterns in species diversity were compared between fruit-type groups. Second, abundance patterns in several common fleshy-fruited, woody angiosperm species were compared to species-specific patterns in seed dispersal by birds. Results from community-level analyses showed evidence for dispersal filters. Dry-fruited species were rare on islands, despite being common on the mainland. Island plant communities were instead dominated by fleshy-fruited species. Patterns in seed dispersal were consistent with differences in diversity, as birds dispersed thousands of fleshy-fruited seeds out to islands, while dry fruited species showed no evidence of mainland-island dispersal. Results from population-level analyses showed no evidence for dispersal filters. Population sizes of common fleshy-fruited species were unrelated to island isolation, as were rates of seed dispersal. Therefore, island isolation distances were not large enough to impose constraints on species’ distributions resulting from seed limitation. Rates of seed dispersal were also unrelated to island area. However, several species increased in abundance with island area, indicating post-dispersal processes also help to shape species distributions. Overall results suggest that seed dispersal processes play an important role in determining the diversity and distribution of plants on islands. At the community-level, dry-fruited species were seed limited and island communities were instead dominated by fleshy-fruited species. At the population-level, common fleshy-fruited species were not seed limited and showed few differences in distribution among islands. Therefore, although evidence for dispersal filters was observed, their effects on plant distributions were scale-dependent.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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