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Seed dispersal of three sympatric oak species by forest rodents in the Qinling Mountains, Central China

Gang Chang, Tiezhi Jin, Junfeng Pei, Xiaoning Chen, Bo Zhang and Zijun Shi
Plant Ecology
Vol. 213, No. 10 (OCTOBER 2012), pp. 1633-1642
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41686752
Page Count: 10
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Seed dispersal of three sympatric oak species by forest rodents in the Qinling Mountains, Central China
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Abstract

Forest rodents play an essential role as seed dispersal vectors through their caching behaviors. Using seeds of Quercus aliena, Q. glandulifera, and Cyclobalanopsis engleriana (Fagaceae), which are dominant, but poorly studied species, in the Qinling Mountains, Central China, we investigated seed prédation and dispersal by forest rodents in 2010 and 2011. There were significant differences in rodent seed-eating and caching strategies among the three tree species. Seeds of Q. aliena and engleriana had hard coats, high nutrition contents (e.g., protein, fat, and starch), and long germination schedules (C. engleriana only). They were less frequently eaten in situ, but more likely to be eaten after removal or cached. Seeds of Q. glandulifera had soft coats and low nutrition contents and were more often eaten in situ and less likely to be eaten after removal or cached. Our findings indicated that forest rodents were primarily responsible for seed predation and dispersal of these three tree species in the Qinling Mountains, and seed traits, especially coat hardness, nutrition content, and germination schedule, were important factors influencing rodent eating and caching behaviors. In addition, seed dispersal process of each tree species differed significantly between the 2 years, reflecting the effect of mast seeding on the eating and caching strategies of forest rodents.

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