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Dispersal of Plants by Waterbirds

Dispersal of Plants by Waterbirds

(p.147) Chapter Six Dispersal of Plants by Waterbirds
Why Birds Matter
Andy J. GreenMerel SoonsAnne-Laure BrochetErik Kleyheeg
University of Chicago Press

Ducks, shorebirds, rails, gulls and other waterbirds act as vectors of seeds, spores and other plant diaspores carried internally in their guts, externally on their feathers, feet or bills, or used as nesting material. Darwin was the first to understand the significance of dispersal by migratory waterbirds in plant evolution, biogeography and ecology. Countless aquatic and terrestrial plants are dependent on dispersal by waterbirds for long-distance dispersal, and this has probably been the case since the Cretaceous. However, plant ecologists and waterfowl biologists alike have been slow to recognize the importance of this dispersal mode as an ecosystem service. Seed dispersal by waterbirds plays a vital role in plant population dynamics, population genetics and changes in species distributions in response to habitat change and climate warming. On the other hand, waterbirds also spread alien species, and their role as vectors should be taken into account when considering how to prevent and manage biological invasions.

Keywords:   diaspore, endozoochory, epizoochory, external transport, gut passage, internal transport, passive seed dispersal, seed traits, shorebirds, waterfowl

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