Articles | Volume 12, issue 1
Standard article
13 Jun 2012
Standard article |  | 13 Jun 2012

Invasive acacias experience higher ant seed removal rates at the invasion edges

D. Montesinos, S. Castro, and S. Rodríguez-Echeverría

Abstract. Seed dispersal is a key process for the invasion of new areas by exotic species. Introduced plants often take advantage of native generalist dispersers. Australian acacias are primarily dispersed by ants in their native range and produce seeds bearing a protein and lipid rich reward for ant mutualists (elaiosome). Nevertheless, the role of myrmecochory in the expansion of Australian acacias in European invaded areas is still not clear. We selected one European population of Acacia dealbata and another of A. longifolia and offered elaiosome-bearing and elaiosome-removed seeds to local ant communities. For each species, seeds were offered both in high-density acacia stands and in low-density invasion edges. For both acacia species, seed removal was significantly higher at the low-density edges. For A. longifolia, manual elimination of elaiosomes reduced the chance of seed removal by 80% in the low-density edges, whereas it made no difference on the high-density stands. For A. dealbata, the absence of elaiosome reduced seed removal rate by 52%, independently of the acacia density. Our data suggests that invasive acacias have found effective ant seed dispersers in Europe and that the importance of such dispersers is higher at the invasion edges.