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High potential of sub-Mediterranean dry grasslands for sheep epizoochory
Mitja Kaligarič, Jožica Brecl, Sonja Škornik, 2016, original scientific article

Abstract: There is a general decline of grasslands across Europe due to habitat loss and degradation. Ensuring plant dispersal thus becomes a key process for preserving grassland patches in all scales. We examined diaspore dispersal by sheep epizoochory in the pastures of the North Adriatic Karst (NW Slovenia) and determined the qualitative and quantitative features of diaspores in fur. We recorded 25,650 diaspores of 141 plant taxa (with 107 taxa and 23,350 diaspores determined to species level), using three different methods: (i) the “whole-coat method”, (ii) the “part-of-thecoat method” and (iii) a “seedling emergence method”. A comparison of these techniques revealed that the “wholecoat method” provided the highest number of diaspores and plant species. All diaspores were clustered into five emergent groups based on seven functional traits (diaspore weight, length, width, height, volume, specific weight and the diaspore surface structure). Our research revealed that sheep represent an important dispersal vector, since about half of the plant species recorded in the pastures were found as diaspores in fur. This study contributes to knowledge about the modes of seed dispersal in seminatural grasslands. Taking into account that livestock play a key role in vegetation dynamics, understanding their effects on seed dispersal is essential for conservation and restoration of these species-rich grassland communities.
Keywords: community assembly, diaspore traits, plant dispersal, seedling emergence method, transhumance
Published: 03.04.2017; Views: 541; Downloads: 318
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