Publication details.


Author(s):B. Padron, M. Nogales, A. Traveset, M. Vila, A. Martínez-Abrain, D.P. Padilla, P. Marrero,
Title:Integration of invasive Opuntia spp. by native and alien seed dispersers in the Mediterranean area and the Canary Islands
JCR Impact Factor:2.896
Issue No.:4

The success of many alien plant species depends on mutualistic relationships with other species. We describe the assemblage of seed dispersers on three species of alien Opuntia invading Mediterranean and Macaronesian habitats, and examine the quality of such plant-animal interactions. We identified vertebrates consuming O. maxima, O. dillenii and O. stricta fruits by direct observation and collecting droppings and pellets. Phenology of the alien species, as well as that of coexisting native species, was monitored for an entire year. Germination tests of ingested and non-ingested seeds were performed both in the greenhouse and in the field. Seed coat thickness and viability were also measured for all treatments. A great variety of taxa, including reptiles, birds and mammals actively participate in the seed dispersal of Opuntia. Phenology of Opuntia fruits in Menorca and Tenerife overlaps with only a few native fleshy-fruited plants present in the study areas, which suggests an advantage for the invader. Most seeds germinated during the second year of the experiment, independently of the effect produced by the dispersers' guts. We found great variation in the germination percentage of Opuntia after gut passage and in the effects of ingestion on seed coat thickness. Seed viability was somewhat reduced after gut passage compared to manually depulped seeds. Our results show how different Opuntia species are integrated into native communities by means of mutualistic interactions, with both native and alien dispersers. Although with heterogeneous effects, either type of disperser potentially contributes to the spread of these alien cacti in the recipient areas. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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