Epizoochory via the hooves - the European bison (Bison bonasus L.) as a dispersal agent of seeds in an open-forest-mosaic

  • Large herbivores are significant vectors for the long-distance dispersal of seeds in various habitats, both attached to animals (epizoochory) and via gut passage (endozoochory). The majority of studies on epizoochory have examined dispersal in the fur of domesticated ungulates. Studies on wild ungulates are important to understand dispersal processes in many habitats, but rare due to methodological constraints. We studied epizoochory of seeds by European bison in an open-forest-mosaic (nutrient-poor grassland and heathland, mixed forest) in NW Germany, where bison had been introduced for the purpose of nature conservation. At the study site it was possible to apply a method by which hoof material of free-ranging bison was non-invasively collected. We identified a total of 1082 seeds from 32 plant species in the hoof material. The three most abundant species were Polygonum aviculare, Agrostis capillaris and Betula spp. Seed species originated from various habitat types of the study area, while the majority of seeds derived fromLarge herbivores are significant vectors for the long-distance dispersal of seeds in various habitats, both attached to animals (epizoochory) and via gut passage (endozoochory). The majority of studies on epizoochory have examined dispersal in the fur of domesticated ungulates. Studies on wild ungulates are important to understand dispersal processes in many habitats, but rare due to methodological constraints. We studied epizoochory of seeds by European bison in an open-forest-mosaic (nutrient-poor grassland and heathland, mixed forest) in NW Germany, where bison had been introduced for the purpose of nature conservation. At the study site it was possible to apply a method by which hoof material of free-ranging bison was non-invasively collected. We identified a total of 1082 seeds from 32 plant species in the hoof material. The three most abundant species were Polygonum aviculare, Agrostis capillaris and Betula spp. Seed species originated from various habitat types of the study area, while the majority of seeds derived from trampled areas. Compared to the non-dispersed plant species of the study area, dispersed plant species had a higher seed longevity index, suggesting that many seeds were picked up from the soil seed bank. Epizoochory ranking indices of dispersed seed species, classifying the importance of epizoochory, revealed that transport in the fur may be of minor importance for many species, i.e. epizoochory by the hooves turned out to be negatively correlated to epizoochory in the fur. We conclude that European bison disperses a considerable number of seed species through trampling. Further research should consider epizoochory via the hooves and include integrative approaches to understand the different dispersal mechanisms by ungulates and their long-term synergetic effect on plant communities.show moreshow less

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Author details:Kiowa Alraune Schulze, Rainer Buchwald, Thilo HeinkenORCiD
ISSN:0722-494X
Title of parent work (English):Tuexenia : Mitteilungen der Floristisch-Soziologischen Arbeitsgemeinschaft
Publisher:Floristisch-Soziologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft
Place of publishing:Göttingen
Publication type:Article
Language:English
Year of first publication:2014
Publication year:2014
Release date:2017/03/27
Tag:diaspore; external dispersal; large ungulate; secondary seed dispersal; trampling
Issue:34
Number of pages:14
First page:131
Last Page:144
Organizational units:Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät / Institut für Biochemie und Biologie
Peer review:Referiert
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