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Spatial pattern of adult trees and the mammal-generated seed rain in the Iberian pear

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The degree to which plant individuals are aggregated or dispersed co-determines how a species uses resources, how it is used as a resource, and how it reproduces. Quantifying such spatial patterns, however, presents several methodological issues that can be overcome by using spatial point pattern analyses (SPPA). We used SPPA to assess the distribution of P. bourgaeana adult trees and their seeds (within fecal samples) dispersed by three mammals (badger, fox, and wild boar) within a 72-ha plot across a range of spatial scales. Pyrus bourgaeana trees in our study plot (n=75) were clearly aggregated with a critical spatial scale of ca 25 m, and approximately nine randomly distributed tree clusters were identified. As expected from their marking behaviors, the spatial patterns of fecal deposition varied widely among mammal species. Whereas badger feces and dispersed seeds were clearly clustered at small spatial scales (<10 m), boar and fox feces were relatively scattered across the plot. A toroidal shift null model testing for independence indicated that boars tended to deliver seeds to the vicinity of adult trees and thus could contribute to the maintenance and enlargement of existing tree clusters. Badgers delivered feces and seeds in a highly clumped pattern but unlike boars, away from P. bourgaeana neighborhoods; thus, they are more likely to create new tree clusters than boars. The strong tree aggregation is likely to be the result of one or several non-exclusive processes, such as the spatial patterning of seed delivery by dispersers and seedling establishment beneath mother trees. In turn, the distinctive distribution of P. bourgaeana in DoƱana appeared to interact with the foraging behavior of its mammalian seed dispersers, leading to neighbourhood-specific dispersal patterns and fruit-removal rates. Our study exemplifies how a detailed description of patterns generates testable hypotheses concerning the ecology of zoochorous. Pyrus bourgaeana dispersers were unique and complementary in their spatial patterning of seed delivery, which likely confers resilience to their overall service and suggests lack of redundancy and expendability of any one species.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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