Endozoochory by slugs can increase bryophyte establishment and species richness

Boch, Steffen; Fischer, Markus; Knop, Eva; Allan, Eric (2015). Endozoochory by slugs can increase bryophyte establishment and species richness. Oikos, 124(3), pp. 331-336. Blackwell 10.1111/oik.01536

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Herbivory can affect plant community composition and diversity by removing biomass and reducing light competition. Herbivory may particularly benefit low growing species such as bryophytes, which are frequently limited by light competition. Gastropods are important herbivores of seed plants and cryptogams, furthermore, they can disperse propagules such as seeds and spores via endozoochory. However, whether gastropod herbivory can reduce the dominance of vascular plants and thereby promote the germination and establishment of endozoochorously dispersed bryophyte spores has never been tested experimentally. Moreover, it is unclear whether these possible interacting effects can influence bryophyte species richness. Here, we tested for endozoochorous spore dispersal by slugs, in combination with sowing of vascular plants, in a fully factorial common garden experiment. Enclosures contained either slugs previously fed with bryophyte sporophytes, control slugs, or no slugs. After 21 days the bryophyte cover was on average 2.8 times higher (3.9 versus 1.4) and after eight months the bryophyte species richness 2.6 times higher (5.8 versus 2.2) in enclosures containing slugs previously fed with bryophyte sporophytes than in the other treatments. Furthermore, after eight months high vascular plant cover reduced bryophyte diversity. On average enclosures without seed sowing harboured 1.6 times more bryophyte species than the ones with seed sowing (4.2 versus 2.6), indicating competitive effects of vascular plants on bryophytes. Our findings suggest that slugs are important dispersal vectors for bryophytes and that they can increase bryophyte populations and maintain bryophyte diversity by reducing the dominance of vascular plants.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Biodiversity

UniBE Contributor:

Boch, Steffen; Fischer, Markus and Allan, Eric

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0030-1299

Publisher:

Blackwell

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

27 Mar 2015 08:35

Last Modified:

11 Mar 2016 15:16

Publisher DOI:

10.1111/oik.01536

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.66181

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/66181

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