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Complementary endozoochorous long-distance seed dispersal by three native herbivorous ungulates in Europe

Abstract : Herbivorous ungulates are key species in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, and their recent demographic and geographic expansion in some temperate regions is likely to influence ecological processes, particularly if we consider plants and the frequency of mobile links among plant populations. In forests, long-distance seed dispersal essentially relies on animal movements. Owing to their ability to cover daily long distances, large herbivorous ungulates are assumed to be important vectors for long-distance seed dispersal (hundreds to thousands of metres). To quantify patterns of seed dispersal, we analysed the paths of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) which had been equipped with GPS collars. We used seed gut passage times from a recent companion paper (Picard et al., Ecology and Evolution, 2015;5:2621–2632). We combined the animal movements and seed gut passage times to estimate seed dispersal curves for herbivorous ungulates. On average, the forest ungulates might disperse consumed seeds over distances greater than 2 km, during a 48-h path in the forest. Maximal dispersal distance was longer for red deer (3.5 km) and wild boar (3.2 km) than for roe deer (2.0 km). By combining high excretion rates and long dispersal distance, wild boar appears to be potentially an efficient seed disperser. Seed dispersal by common herbivorous ungulates is likely to play a crucial role in the today's context of rapid environmental changes such as global warming and landscape fragmentation. Differences in the distribution of seed gut passage times and seasonal distances covered underline the relevance of cross comparative approaches and the complementarity of herbivorous ungulates in long-distance seed dispersal.
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M. Pellerin, M. Picard, S. Said, E. Baubet, Christophe Baltzinger. Complementary endozoochorous long-distance seed dispersal by three native herbivorous ungulates in Europe. Basic and Applied Ecology, Elsevier, 2016, 17 (4), pp.321-332. ⟨10.1016/j.baae.2016.01.005⟩. ⟨hal-02605424⟩



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