SREL Reprint #2592




Direct and indirect effects of masting on rodent populations and tree seed survival

Jaclyn L. Schnurr1, Richard S. Ostfeld2, and Charles D. Canham2

1Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, USA
2Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY 12545, USA

Abstract: Many plant species are thought to benefit from mast seeding as a result of increased seed survival through predator situation. However, in communities with many different masting species, lack of synchrony in seed production among species may decrease seed survival by maintaining seed predator populations through the intermast cycle. Similarly, masting by different plain species firmly have different effects on the seed predator community. We conducted a three-year study in the northeastern USA temperate deciduous forest to determine if production of large seed crops by several tree species was synchronous, and if they had similar effects on all small mammal species. We found that red oak mast crops resulted in increased densities of Peromyscus leucopus and P. maniculatus, but had no effect on Clethrionomys gapperi abundance. Conversely, C. gapperi populations, but not Peromyscus populations, appeared to increase in response to a large red maple seed crop. Differences in small mammal abundance resulted in changes in species-specific seed survival: in the year of abundant C. gapperi, experimentally placed red oak acorns had significantly higher survival than in the year of high Peromyscus abundance. Red oak acorn removal was positively correlated with Peromyscus abundance, while red maple seed removal was significantly higher with increased C. gapperi abundance. Thus, species-specific seed production had differential effects on subsequent small mammal abundance, which in turn affected seed survival. We suggest that at the level of the community, even short-term lack of synchrony in production of large seed crops can cause variation in postdispersal seed survival, through differential effects on the community of small mammal seed predators.

SREL Reprint #2592

Schnurr, J. L., R. S. Ostfeld, and C. D. Canham. 2002. Direct and indirect effects of masting on rodent populations and tree seed survival. Oikos. 96:402-410.

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