Advantages of masting in European beech: timing of granivore satiation and benefits of seed caching support the predator dispersal hypothesis

Abstract

The predator satiation and predator dispersal hypotheses provide alternative explanations for masting. Both assume satiation of seed-eating vertebrates. They differ in whether satiation occurs before or after seed removal and caching by granivores (predator satiation and predator dispersal, respectively). This difference is largely unrecognized, but it is demographically important because cached seeds are dispersed and often have a microsite advantage over nondispersed seeds. We conducted rodent exclosure experiments in two mast and two nonmast years to test predictions of the predator dispersal hypothesis in our study system of yellow-necked mice (Apodemus flavicollis) and European beech (Fagus sylvatica). Specifically, we tested whether the fraction of seeds removed from the forest floor is similar during mast and nonmast years (i.e., lack of satiation before seed caching), whether masting decreases the removal of cached seeds (i.e., satiation after seed storage), and whether seed caching increases the probability of seedling emergence. We found that masting did not result in satiation at the seed removal stage. However, masting decreased the removal of cached seeds, and seed caching dramatically increased the probability of seedling emergence relative to noncached seeds. European beech thus benefits from masting through the satiation of scatterhoarders that occurs only after seeds are removed and cached. Although these findings do not exclude other evolutionary advantages of beech masting, they indicate that fitness benefits of masting extend beyond the most commonly considered advantages of predator satiation and increased pollination efficiency.

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-015-3511-3

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@article{Zwolak2015AdvantagesOM, title={Advantages of masting in European beech: timing of granivore satiation and benefits of seed caching support the predator dispersal hypothesis}, author={Rafał Zwolak and Michał Bogdziewicz and Aleksandra Wr{\'o}bel and Elizabeth E. Crone}, journal={Oecologia}, year={2015}, volume={180}, pages={749-758} }