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Seed predation does not explain pine invasion success

Moyano, Jaime, Chiuffo, Mariana C., Nuñez, Martín A., Rodriguez-Cabal, Mariano A.
Oecologia 2019 v.189 no.4 pp. 981-991
Pinaceae, colonizing ability, ecological invasion, ecosystems, granivores, introduced plants, plant establishment, predators, seed predation, seed size, seed weight, seeds, steppes, Argentina
Why some non-native plant species invade, and others fail remains an elusive question. Plant invasion success has been associated with specific species traits. Yet, we have limited knowledge of the mechanisms relating these traits to invasion potential. General patterns of biotic resistance by seed predation may provide a mechanism that helps separate invasive from non-invasive plants. Seed predation is an important barrier against plant establishment for many plant species. It may, therefore, create a selective filter against non-native plant establishment based on plant traits related to seed predation rate. In two cafeteria-style seed predation experiments in a steppe ecosystem in Patagonia (Argentina) we provided seeds of 16 non-native Pinaceae covering a 300-fold variation in seed mass, a 200-fold variation in seed volume and 75-fold variation in seed toughness. Seed removal decreased with seed mass and seed volume. Seed toughness was not a significant predictor while seed volume was the best predictor of predators’ preference. However, for species of this family small seed size is the most important predictor of species invasiveness. Our results show that seed predation does not explain Pinaceae invasive success. In our system, species that have smaller seeds (i.e., more invasive) are preferentially consumed by seed predators. Seed mass was not the best predictor of granivory rates, despite being the seed trait on which most studies have been focused. Our ability to predict future invasion and understand invasion success could benefit from other studies that focus on the mechanisms behind invasive traits.