Posted: May 22nd, 2023
Theoretical models suggest that seed predation significantly functions to structure plant population which translates to the larger community. To this end, empirical studies carried out in a diversity of niches contend that post-dispersal seed predation presents a potential cause of extensive seed loss (Howe & Miriti, 2004). Nevertheless, many other factors may hinder the seedling establishment, and as such their effects can dwarf seed predation.
For instance, with an unfavorable microsite, the effect of seed predation on plant recruitment is decimated. Moreover, excessive protection typified by most perennial plants which provide safe sites (seed banks) for seeds limits seedling establishment. To date, even with well-documented literature on the degree of predator influence on seed abundance, the link between their dynamics remains unclear. This is owed to the fact that there are limited studies done on the same even on areas where the situation seems alarming.
It is tricky to give a general statement on predatorsâ€™ degree of influence on plant recruitment. This is so because of the striking and varied distinct traits displayed by seeds that don the earth. As such, the susceptibility of seeds to predators varies, for example, with size, strength, and the presence of elaiosomes. Moreover, an ecosystem may host a diverse number of predators that have different preferences thus altering plant population in a complex manner.
In synopsis, a combination of these factors results in a complex community structure. However, seed predators should not be condemned since they too are beneficial. For instance, predation could lead to seed pollination of a mature seed (post-dispersal) that presents a potential new adult in the community. Nevertheless, predation is harmful when a seed in question is premature (pre-dispersal predation) since at this stage it cannot grow even with a favorable microsite. As such, we are tempted to scrutinize the role of seed dispersal in seed recruitment.
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