Consequences of pre-dispersal damage by insects for the dispersal and recruitment of mangroves.
- Citation data:
Oecologia, ISSN: 0029-8549, Vol: 148, Issue: 1, Page: 70-80
- Publication Year:
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Consequences; pre; dispersal; damage; insects; for; recruitment; mangroves; Life Sciences; Physical Sciences and Mathematics; Social and Behavioral Sciences
Herbivores may enhance plant recruitment, but such positive interactions may be overlooked in favour of obvious negative effects of herbivory on propagules. My objective was to determine whether larval insects that feed and develop within fruit of the mangrove Avicennia marina act as mutualist herbivores by increasing the dispersal of propagules without affecting their viability and emerging successfully as adults following dispersal of the propagule by water. Surveys revealed that frugivory is common throughout the mangrove forest, and fruit had up to six exit holes where larvae had emerged as adults. Larval insects did not affect the flotation of propagules with pericarps, a thin structure that provides buoyancy for dispersal by water. In contrast, after simulating germination by removing the pericarp, the majority of propagules with three exit holes floated on average for 20 h longer than those without exit holes, which sank immediately. Based on this evidence that frugivory could increase the dispersal potential of propagules, I predicted that propagules consumed by larval insects should disperse farther than undamaged propagules, and this was tested by quantifying the potential viability of propagules stranded on beaches at increasing distances (up to 20 km) from mangrove forests. Flies and moths emerged as adults after being transported tens of kilometres within mangrove propagules, revealing a novel mode of dispersal. Proportionally fewer potentially viable propagules were supplied to beaches at increasing distances from mangrove forests, however, indicating that larval insects negatively affect recruitment and are thus not acting as mutualist herbivores. Nevertheless, when transported back to the mangrove forest, seedlings established from propagules damaged by larval insects and stranded on beaches. Therefore, although frugivory does not preclude mangrove recruitment, its negative effects in the pre-dispersal environment may be intensified with increasing dispersal distance, thus limiting the long-distance supply of propagules and recruitment of mangroves.