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Såli (Micronesian starling – Aplonis opaca) as a key seed dispersal agent across a tropical archipelago

  • Henry S. Pollock (a1), Evan C. Fricke (a2), Evan M. Rehm (a3), Martin Kastner (a1), Nicole Suckow (a1), Julie A. Savidge (a3) and Haldre S. Rogers (a2)...

Abstract

Seed dispersal is an important ecological process that structures plant communities and influences ecosystem functioning. Loss of animal dispersers therefore poses a serious threat to forest ecosystems, particularly in the tropics where zoochory predominates. A prominent example is the near-total extinction of seed dispersers on the tropical island of Guam following the accidental introduction of the invasive brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), negatively impacting seedling recruitment and forest regeneration. We investigated frugivory by a remnant population of Såli (Micronesian starling – Aplonis opaca) on Guam and two other island populations (Rota, Saipan) to evaluate their ecological role as a seed disperser in the Mariana archipelago. Using a combination of behavioural observations, nest contents and fecal samples, we documented frugivory of 37 plant species. Native plants comprised the majority (66%) of all species and 90% of all seeds identified in fecal and nest contents. Diet was highly similar across age classes and sampling years. In addition, plant species consumed by Såli comprised 88% of bird-dispersed adult trees and 54% of all adult trees in long-term forest monitoring plots, demonstrating the Såli’s broad diet and potential for restoring native forests. Overall, we provide the most comprehensive assessment to date of frugivory by the Såli and confirm its importance as a seed disperser on Guam and throughout the Marianas.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Henry S. Pollock, Email: henry.s.pollock@gmail.com

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Såli (Micronesian starling – Aplonis opaca) as a key seed dispersal agent across a tropical archipelago

  • Henry S. Pollock (a1), Evan C. Fricke (a2), Evan M. Rehm (a3), Martin Kastner (a1), Nicole Suckow (a1), Julie A. Savidge (a3) and Haldre S. Rogers (a2)...

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