Recruitment Dynamics of the Relict Palm, Jubaea chilensis: Intricate and Pervasive Effects of Invasive Herbivores and Nurse Shrubs in Central Chile
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Shrubs can have a net positive effect on the recruitment of other species, especially relict species in dry-stressful conditions. We tested the effects of nurse shrubs and herbivory defoliation on performance (survival and growth) of nursery-grown seedlings of the largest living palm, the relict wine palm Jubaea chilensis. During an 18-month period, a total of more than 300 seedlings were exposed to of four possible scenarios produced by independently weakening the effects of nurse shrubs and browsers. The experiment followed a two-way fully factorial design. We found consistent differences in survival between protected and unprotected seedlings (27.5% and 0.7%, respectively), and herbivory had a dramatic and overwhelmingly negative effect on seedling survival. The invasive rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is clearly creating a critical bottleneck in the regeneration process and might, therefore, partially explain the general lack of natural regeneration of wine palms under natural conditions. Apparently biotic filters mediated by ecological interactions are more relevant in the early stages of recruitment than abiotic, at least in invaded sites of central Chile. Our data reveal that plant-plant facilitation relationship may be modulated by plant-animal interactions, specifically by herbivory, a common and widespread ecological interaction in arid and semi-arid environments whose role has been frequently neglected. Treatments that protect young wine palm seedlings are mandatory to enable the seedlings to attain a height at which shoots are no longer vulnerable to browsing. Such protection is an essential first step toward the conservation and reintroduction of this emblematic and threatened species.
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DOI: DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133559
Quote ItemPLoS ONE 10(7): e0133559 Jul 28 2015
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