Degree Granting Department
Gordon A. Fox, Ph.D.
Susan S. Bell, Ph.D.
Henry R. Mushinsky, Ph.D.
Ronald J. Sarno, Ph.D.
caching, predation, small mammals, wind dispersal, microhabitat, weevil infestation
Studies of secondary seed dispersal by small mammals have largely been focused on the interaction between nut-bearing tree species and sciurid rodents such as squirrels, and on heteromyid rodents in the southwestern United States. However, there is now evidence that wind-dispersed tree species such as pines also undergo a process of secondary seed dispersal, where animals redistribute (cache) seeds that have already fallen to the ground, often in microhabitats more suitable for successful seed germination. In Florida sandhill, where fire suppression has threatened wind-dispersed longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) by encouraging the encroachment of hardwoods such as sand live oak (Quercus geminata), secondary seed dispersal may be an important factor in determining community composition and persistence of longleaf pine systems. Using a combination of seed depots and seed predator exclosures, I looked at both longleaf pine and sand live oak in terms of whether small animals such as squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and cotton mice (Peromyscus gossypinus) cache the seeds, and where the seeds of these two tree species best germinate. Since sand live oak acorns are prone to infestation by weevils (Curculio spp.), I also examined whether nut condition affects acorn germination potential. I found that longleaf pine seeds are cached by small mammals to a small degree. While these seeds are not moved great distances from where they originate, they vi are often redistributed into microhabitats that promote successful seed germination. Caging experiments indicated that seeds were most likely to germinate when buried in open areas between adult trees, and to some degree, under shrub cover. On the other hand, sand live oak acorns appear to face heavy predation by large seed predators such as raccoons (Procyon lotor) and wild pigs (Sus scrofa). Those acorns that do escape predation, including weevil-infested acorns, may provide an opportunity for seedling establishment. However, it appears that sand live oak depends heavily on vegetative sprouting for regeneration. This suggests that even in the absence of fire, longleaf pines in Florida sandhill are able to persist through secondary seed dispersal by small animals coupled with heavy seed predation on competing sand live oak.
Scholar Commons Citation
Ansley, Shannon Elizabeth, "Secondary seed dispersal of longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, and Sand Live Oak, Quercus geminata, in Florida sandhill" (2006). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.