Using basic plant traits to predict ungulate seed dispersal potential

Submitted by editor on 7 May 2015. Get the paper!
Poacae species germinating from roe deer dung in the wild. Photo by Christophe Baltzinger.


By Christophe Baltzinger and Aurélie Albert

Zoochory is a fundamental plant-animal interaction but, today, habitat fragmentation is decreasing gene flow among populations, contributing to the decline of plant species. 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.

Based on a systematic literature review, we highlighted the interaction between plant (and seed) traits and traits of their ungulate dispersers, for both endo- and epizoochory, in Europe.

We showed that plant habitat openness and diaspore morphology (i.e. balloon structure, presence and shape of appendages, and presence of elaiosome or pulp) most frequently explained why different ungulates externally dispersed different plant species. For endozoochory, plant habitat openness and diaspore releasing height mostly explained the difference between ungulates. Thanks to these results, we built models able to predict the traits of the most suitable ungulate disperser according to the traits of the focal plant.

This paper has been selected as Editor's choice for the May 2015 issue.