Plant dispersal syndromes are unreliable, especially for predicting zoochory and long-distance dispersal

Green, Andy J. and Baltzinger, Christophe and Lovas-Kiss, Ádám (2021) Plant dispersal syndromes are unreliable, especially for predicting zoochory and long-distance dispersal. OIKOS. ISSN 0030-1299

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Plant dispersal syndromes are allocated based on diaspore morphology and used to predict the dominant mechanisms of dispersal. Many authors assume that only angiosperms with endozoochory, epizoochory or anemochory syndromes have a longdistance dispersal (LDD) mechanism. Too much faith is often placed in classical syndromes to explain historical dispersal events and to predict future ones. What is usually recorded as the ‘endozoochory syndrome’ is in reality a ‘frugivory syndrome’ and this has often diverted attention from endozoochory by non-frugivores (e.g. waterbirds and large herbivores) that disperse a broad range of angiosperms, for which they likely provide the maximum dispersal distances. Neither the endozoochory nor the epizoochory syndromes provide helpful predictions of which plants non-frugivores disperse, or by which mechanism. We combined data from previous studies to show that only 4% of European plant species dispersed by ungulate endozoochory belong to the corresponding syndrome, compared to 36% for ungulate epizoochory and 8% for endozoochory by migratory ducks. In contrast, the proportions of these species that are assigned to an ‘unassisted syndrome’ are 37, 31 and 28%, respectively. Since allocated syndromes do not adequately account for zoochory, empirical studies often fail to find the expected relationship between syndromes and LDD events such as those underlying the colonization of islands or latitudinal migration rates. We need full incorporation of existing zoochory data into dispersal databases, and more empirical research into the relationship between plant traits and the frequency and effectiveness of different dispersal mechanisms (paying attention to unexpected vectors). Acknowledging the broad role of non-frugivores in facilitating LDD is crucial to improve predictions of the consequences of global change, such as how plant distributions respond to climate change, and how alien plants spread. Networks of dispersal interactions between these vertebrates and plants are a vital but understudied part of the Web of Life.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science / természettudomány > QK Botany / növénytan > QK30 Plant ecology. Plant ethology / növényökológia
Q Science / természettudomány > QK Botany / növénytan > QK50 Plant geography (phytogeography) / növényföldrajz
Depositing User: Dr. Ádám Lovas-Kiss
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2021 13:58
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2023 07:22

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