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Seed Dispersal -- Plant Ecology


Studies from seed plants have shown that animal dispersal fundamentally alters the success of plant dispersal, shaping community composition through time. Our understanding of this phenomenon in spore plants is comparatively limited. Though little is known about species-specific dispersal relationships between passerine birds and bryophytes, birds are particularly attractive as a potential bryophyte dispersal vector given their highly vagile nature as well as their association with bryophytes when foraging and building nests. We captured birds in Gifford Pinchot National Forest to sample their legs and tails for bryophyte propagules. We found 24 bryophyte species across 34 bird species. We examined the level of interaction specificity: (i) within the overall network to assess community level patterns; and (ii) at the plant species level to determine the effect of bird behaviour on network structure. We found that avian– bryophyte associations are constrained within the network, with species-specific and foraging guild effects on the variety of bryophytes found on bird species. Our findings suggest that diffuse bird–bryophyte dispersal networks are likely to be common in habitats where birds readily encounter bryophytes and that further work aimed at understanding individual bird–bryophyte species relationships may prove valuable in determining nuance within this newly described dispersal mechanism.


© 2022 The Authors.

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