Extensive Resource Subsidies by Salmon-Supported Bears to Granivores Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/5425kd07p

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  • In salmon-rich, northern coastal environments brown bears can occur at high densities and exert wide-ranging effects on ecosystem processes. Bear consumption of seasonally available fruit may provide important seed dispersal services to plants, and by extension, influence the ecology of seed consumers such as small mammals. In this study, we investigate relationships between bears, fruit, and small mammals in a coastal Alaskan ecosystem in order to understand the extent to which diplochory, two-phase seed dispersal, may influence the community ecology of this system. We collected field data to characterize patterns of bear frugivory and the extent that small mammals consumed and dispersed seeds deposited by bears. Our findings indicate that bears are an important initial dispersal agent for 12 species of fruit. Bear-deposited seed piles were intensively utilized and dispersed by several different small mammal species, primarily northwestern deer mice (Peromyscus keeni) and red backed voles (Myodes rutilus). In addition to serving as secondary seed dispersers, small mammals likely incurred significant nutritional benefits from bear deposited seeds. Our results illustrate the important direct role that bears play in seed dispersal and indirectly on the community ecology of small mammals. We further highlight the prevalence of a two-phase mammalian seed dispersal mechanism by quantifying visitation rates and the energetic subsidies described in north coastal temperate rainforest ecosystems. Due to the presence of salmon, high density coastal bear populations play an important role in structuring the community ecology of temperate rainforest ecosystem.
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