Hierarchical levels of seed predation variation by introduced beetles on an endemic mediterranean palm

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Abstract

Seed predators can limit plant recruitment and thus profoundly impinge the dynamics of plant populations, especially when diverse seed predators (e.g., native and introduced) attack particular plant populations. Surprisingly, however, we know little concerning the potential hierarchy of spatial scales (e.g., region, population, patch) and coupled ecological correlates governing variation in the overall impact that native and introduced seed predators have on plant populations. We investigated several spatial scales and ecological correlates of pre-dispersal seed predation by invasive borer beetles in Chamaerops humilis (Arecaceae), a charismatic endemic palm of the Mediteranean basin. To this end, we considered 13 palm populations (115 palms) within four geographical regions of the Iberian Peninsula. The observed interregional differences in percentages of seed predation by invasive beetles were not significant likely because of considerable variation among populations within regions. Among population variation in seed predation was largely related to level of human impact. In general, levels of seed predation were several folds higher in human-altered populations than in natural populations. Within populations, seed predation declined significantly with the increase in amount of persisting fruit pulp, which acted as a barrier against seed predators. Our results revealed that a native species (a palm) is affected by the introduction of related species because of the concurrent introduction of seed predators that feed on both the introduced and native palms. We also show how the impact of invasive seed predators on plants can vary across a hierarchy of levels ranging from variation among individuals within local populations to large scale regional divergences.

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Rodríguez, M., Delibes, M., & Fedriani, J. M. (2014). Hierarchical levels of seed predation variation by introduced beetles on an endemic mediterranean palm. PLoS ONE, 9(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0109867

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