FLYING FOXES CEASE TO FUNCTION AS SEED DISPERSERS LONG BEFORE THEY BECOME RARE

FLYING FOXES CEASE TO FUNCTION AS SEED DISPERSERS LONG BEFORE THEY BECOME RARE Rare species play limited ecological roles, but particular behavioral traits may predispose species to become functionally extinct before becoming rare. Flying foxes (Pteropodid fruit bats) are important dispersers of large seeds, but their effectiveness is hypothesized to depend on high population density that induces aggressive interactions. In a Pacific archipelago, we quantified the proportion of seeds that flying foxes dispersed beyond the fruiting canopy, across a range of sites that differed in flying fox abundance. We found the relationship between ecological function (seed dispersal) and flying fox abundance was nonlinear and consistent with the hypothesis. For most trees in sites below a threshold abundance of flying foxes, flying foxes dispersed <1%% of the seeds they handled. Above the threshold, dispersal away from trees increased to 58%% as animal abundance approximately doubled. Hence, flying foxes may cease to be effective seed dispersers long before becoming rare. As many species' populations decline worldwide, identifying those with threshold relationships is an important precursor to preservation of ecologically effective densities. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Ecology Ecological Society of America

FLYING FOXES CEASE TO FUNCTION AS SEED DISPERSERS LONG BEFORE THEY BECOME RARE

Ecology, Volume 87 (2) – Feb 1, 2006

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Publisher
Ecological Society of America
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 by the Ecological Society of America
Subject
Report
ISSN
0012-9658
DOI
10.1890/05-0386
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Rare species play limited ecological roles, but particular behavioral traits may predispose species to become functionally extinct before becoming rare. Flying foxes (Pteropodid fruit bats) are important dispersers of large seeds, but their effectiveness is hypothesized to depend on high population density that induces aggressive interactions. In a Pacific archipelago, we quantified the proportion of seeds that flying foxes dispersed beyond the fruiting canopy, across a range of sites that differed in flying fox abundance. We found the relationship between ecological function (seed dispersal) and flying fox abundance was nonlinear and consistent with the hypothesis. For most trees in sites below a threshold abundance of flying foxes, flying foxes dispersed <1%% of the seeds they handled. Above the threshold, dispersal away from trees increased to 58%% as animal abundance approximately doubled. Hence, flying foxes may cease to be effective seed dispersers long before becoming rare. As many species' populations decline worldwide, identifying those with threshold relationships is an important precursor to preservation of ecologically effective densities.

Journal

EcologyEcological Society of America

Published: Feb 1, 2006

Keywords: ecological extinction ; ecological function ; ecologically effective densities ; flying foxes ; population decline ; Pteropus tonganus ; seed dispersal ; threshold ; Tonga, Polynesia

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