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Using basic plant traits to predict ungulate seed dispersal potential

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Habitat fragmentation contributes to the decline of plant species by decreasing gene flow among populations. Restoring connectivity among habitat patches is therefore a major issue for plant conservation. However, deciding where to focus restoration efforts requires identifying suitable dispersers for each target plant species. We collected data from the literature on wild and domesticated ungulates, known to be effective seed dispersers, and on the plants they dispersed in Europe via epi‐ and/or endozoochory. We performed a systematic literature review to identify plant and animal traits relevant for seed dispersal. We first modeled the relationships between epi‐ or endozoochory and a priori selected plant traits (diaspore releasing height, length, shape and morphology, and habitat openness). The differences we underlined between the two dispersal mechanisms justified splitting our analyses accordingly. Then, for each dispersal mechanism, we asked whether basic plant traits could be used to predict specific traits of ungulates as endozoochorous or epizoochorous seed dispersers. We modeled the relationships between a priori selected ungulate traits for epizoochory (habitat openness, shoulder height, hair curliness, and hair length) and for endozoochory (habitat openness, body mass, feeding type and digestive system) and plant traits. Plant habitat openness and diaspore morphology were the predictors that most often explained differences among ungulates for epizoochory, whereas plant habitat openness and diaspore releasing height most often explained differences for endozoochory. Our trait‐based predictive models can help improve our ability to propose more precise management decisions for the conservation of plant populations worldwide by taking into account ungulate dispersers.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2015

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