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Indirect Interactions between Browsers and Seed Predators Affect the Seed Bank Dynamics of a Chaparral Shrub

Adrian J. Deveny and Laurel R. Fox
Oecologia
Vol. 150, No. 1 (Nov., 2006), pp. 69-77
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40210615
Page Count: 9
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Indirect Interactions between Browsers and Seed Predators Affect the Seed Bank Dynamics of a Chaparral Shrub
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Abstract

Interactions between herbivores and seed predators may have long-term consequences for plant populations that rely on persistent seed banks for recovery after unpredictable fires. We assessed the effects of browsing by deer and seed predation by rodents, ants and birds on the densities of seeds entering the seed bank of Ceanothus cuneatus var. rigidus, a maritime chaparral shrub in coastal California. Ceanothus produced many more seeds when protected from browsers in long-term experimental exclosures than did browsed plants, but the seed densities in the soil beneath browsed and unbrowsed Ceanothus were the same at the start of an intensive one-year study. The density of seeds in the soil initially increased in both treatments following summer seed drop: while densities returned to pre-drop levels within a few weeks under browsed plants, soil seed densities remained high for 5-8 months beneath unbrowsed plants. Rodent abundance (especially deer mice) was higher near unbrowsed plants than >30 m away, and rodents removed Ceanothus seeds from dishes in the experimental plots. At least in the short term, rodent density and rates of seed removal were inversely related to the intensity of browsing. Our data have management implications for maintaining viable Ceanothus populations by regulating the intensity of browsing and the timing, intensity and frequency of fires.

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