Seed dispersal by scatter-hoarding animals plays a significant role in seedling recruitment, the coexistence of plants, and the structure and function of forest ecosystems. However, how the re-caching of seeds affects dispersal success is unclear. Few studies have been able to analyze the impact of the re-caching of seeds on seedling establishment.
Researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) conducted a study to assess the effects of re-caching of seeds by scatter-hoarding rodents on seed dispersal effectiveness. They investigated the seed dispersal of two large-seeded trees (Scleropyrum wallichianum and Garcinia xanthochymus) by scatter-hoarding rodents in the Xishuangbanna tropical forest, Yunnan, southwest China.
They found that the re-caching of seeds by scatter-hoarding rodents significantly increased the dispersal distance and seedling establishment of cached seeds for both species. The cached seeds can also be stored for longer time after being excavated by rodents and re-cached from primary caches.
Moreover, re-caching contributed a large proportion of seeds and seedlings distributed >50 m away from parent trees, and a few seeds and seedlings attained a dispersal distance >100 m. Therefore, re-caching by rodents contributed to effective long-distance seed dispersal.
"Our results suggest that re-caching can be an effective strategy of cache management to prolong seed storage time for scatter-hoarding rodents and can contribute to effective long-distance seed dispersal in plants", said WANG Zhenyu, a student of XTBG.
The study entitled "Re-caching behaviour of rodents improves seed dispersal effectiveness: Evidence from seedling establishment" has been published in Forest Ecology & Management.
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