Spatial–temporal distribution of ornithochorous seeds from an Elaeagnus umbellata community dominating a riparian habitat
The dispersal efficiency and potential distribution of ornithochorous seeds of Elaeagnus umbellata in a riparian habitat were evaluated to clarify this species' establishment site in relation to the disturbance regime of the floodplain. Fruit removal by avian frugivores was monitored using fruit bags, and the spatial distribution of excreted seeds was quantified by seed traps set randomly on a gravel bar as an isolated seed source in the Yoshino River throughout an autumn fruiting season. Although more than 45% of the fruits remained on the twigs in the fruit bags, almost all fruits on the control twigs without fruit bags were exploited by the beginning of January. The fruit removal rate and seed dispersal distance were positively correlated with an increase in wintering bird species and their abundance. Intact bird-dispersed seeds of E. umbellata were trapped within a 400-m range and damaged seeds were limited to traps set within 50 m from the seed source. Frugivore behavior, such as feces excretion on rocks near water drinking sites and perching on surrounding woodland, greatly influenced the spatial and temporal dispersal pattern of the seed rain. In the present study, the avian frugivores showed upstream seed dispersal; thus, in years with stochastic autumnal floods, secondary dispersal via hydrochory downstream may be facilitated. The intensive seed dispersal in E. umbellata indicates that the present distribution of parent trees in the restricted elevation range of the gravel bars is the result of survival through disturbance, rather than seed dispersal limitation.