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Antagonistic effects of seed dispersal and herbivory on plant migration.

Abstract

The two factors that determine plant migration rates - seed dispersal and population growth - are generally treated independently, despite the fact that many animals simultaneously enhance plant migration rate via seed dispersal, and decrease it via negative effects of herbivory on population growth. Using extensive empirical data, we modelled the antagonistic effects of seed dispersal and herbivory by white-tailed deer on potential migration rates of Trillium grandiflorum, a forest herb in eastern North America. This novel antagonistic interaction is illustrated by maximum migration rates occurring at intermediate, but low herbivory (< 15%). Assuming herbivory < 20% and favourable conditions for population growth during post-glacial migration, seed dispersal by deer can explain rates of migration achieved in the past, in contrast to previous models of forest herb migration. However, relatively unfavourable conditions for population growth and increasingly intense herbivory by deer may compromise plant migration in the face of present and future climate change.

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