Whilst consumption by rodents is often invoked as a major mortality factor for large-seed species of trees, its relative importance compared with other mortality factors is poorly known. We investigated experimentally the fate of post-dispersal seeds of Quercus glauca under different understorey environments (areas covered by (i) a pteridophyte Pyrrosia lingua, (ii) a ground-vine, Trachelospermum asiaticum and (iii) no vegetation) from the germination stage to seedling emergence and establishment stages in humid maritime woodland. We employed a pair of caged and uncaged treatments to evaluate the impact of seed removal/predation by rodents, which allowed us to separate seed removal/predation mortality from mortality due to other factors. Effects by rodents were greater in the no-understorey habitat than in the Pyrrosia and Trachelospermum habitats at early stages of development, whilst non-rodent-associated mortality was relatively more important towards the seedling establishment stages in all habitats. In the absence of predation/removal by rodents (i. e. the caged treatment), more seedlings survived in the no-understorey habitat whilst seedlings were significantly taller in the Pyrrosia habitat. In contrast, no significant difference was observed in either seed/seedling survivorship or seedling height amongst habitats where seeds/seedlings were exposed to rodent predation/removal. Overall, this study in a humid maritime woodland has revealed the temporally variable influence of mortality factors and the context-dependent survival of oak seeds/seedlings, making a contrast to observations in drier woodlands; in the no-understorey environment predation/removal effect was heavier but later survivorship was higher, whilst in vegetated environments, predation/removal was reduced but survivorship was not high.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science