Dispersal of fig seeds in the Cook Islands: introduced frugivores are no substitutes for natives

Samantha Staddon, S.G. Compton, A. Portch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

. Across the Pacific, island vegetation is altering in response to changes in seed disperser assemblages brought about by extinctions and introductions of birds and other animals. On the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, the Pacific Banyan (Ficus prolixa, Moraceae) is undergoing little if any recruitment, possibly linked to a lack of dispersal agents. On Rarotonga, where F. prolixa is found in semi-urban and agricultural environments, there is no recent recruitment in contrast to the situation on Atiu where the tree is common in native forest. We examined the quality and quantity of seed dispersal offered to F. prolixa by the available frugivores on these islands, comparing the effectiveness of extant native and introduced species. The native Cook Islands fauna, particularly birds and bats, appear to be the most effective seed dispersers of F. prolixa, both in terms of quantity and quality. Whilst these are relatively numerous on Atiu, they rarely visit F. prolixa on Rarotonga. The native Chocolate hermit crab Coenobita cavipes is a previously unreported additional native seed disperser, conferring low quantity, but high quality dispersal. Introduced birds and mammals are the most numerous F. prolixa frugivores on Rarotonga and in non-forest environments on Atiu, but they act mainly as seed predators. Consequently, the losses and rarity of remaining native frugivores have not been compensated for by introduced species on Rarotonga which may be contributing to the absence of recruitment there.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2010


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