The ecological significance of frugivorous animals as seed vectors of fleshy-fruited plants in high diversity ecosystems of south-western Australia

Jerome Bull

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    201 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    [Truncated] South-western Australia is one of the world's hotspots in terms of floristic richness and diversity, and is of significant conservation concern due to the flora's exceptional endemism (70%) and rarity combined with threats from current anthropocentric disturbances such as habitat fragmentation, weed invasions, dieback disease, changes in fire frequency and potentially climate change. Despite recent and productive advances in cataloguing the biotic diversity of the region, our understanding of many ecological interactions is still largely unexplored. One interaction that has been little studied but is vital to the continuity of plant populations is that between fleshy fruits and frugivores.

    The overall aim of the research was to determine and evaluate the ecological significance of the fleshy fruit-seed disperser interaction in south-western Australian ecosystems, with a special focus on two climatically similar, though geographically separate, 'hotspots' of floristic diversity and conservation value; the Stirling Range (SRNP) and Lesueur National Parks (LNP). This was achieved by investigating three aspects of frugivory and seed dispersal rarely studied in south-western Australia. Firstly, various traits of native fleshy fruits were identified and described in order to determine the dominant frugivores. Secondly, fruit removal experiments were conducted in order to reveal specific disperser groups such as nocturnal vertebrates (i.e.mammals), diurnal vertebrates (i.e. birds and reptiles) and ants. Finally, the role of the emu Dromaius novaehollandiae as a seed vector was explored via analyses of scat remains collected from study plots and opportunistic collections.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Western Australia
    DOIs
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2006

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