Simplifying methods to assess site suitability for plant recruitment

Calvino-Cancela, M., 2011. Simplifying methods to assess site suitability for plant recruitment. Plant Ecology, 212(8), pp.1375-1383.

Few studies link seed dispersal with its demographic consequences, or provide reliable estimates of seed dispersal effectiveness. One reason is the complexity of measuring the suitability for plant recruitment of seed arrival sites. In this study, I compare three methods that differ in the effort required to measure site suitability for seedling recruitment. All are based on the proportion of seeds that become seedlings (seedling-to-seed ratios). Method I is the most detailed and labour intensive. The fate of seeds was followed throughout the different steps of the recruitment process, from fruit removal until seedling emergence, including both seeds dispersed by different animals and undispersed seeds. Method II is based on seed addition experiments. Seeds were sowed in plots, and seedlings emerging were counted in the following two seasons. In Method III, average seed input during dispersal was measured with soil seed bank samples taken in pre- and post-dispersal periods, and seedling emergence estimated with samples of three seasons. Method II provided results similar to those of Method I, which, conversely, provides more insight in the actual processes driving recruitment. Method III, however, systematically underestimated site suitability (seedling-to-seed ratios) by about 50% as compared to the other methods in all microhabitats studied. Relative instead of absolute indices of site suitability were, however, reliable with this method. Method II and III are significantly less costly and could be good alternatives to Method I for some purposes, simplifying future studies on the demographic consequences of seed dispersal and the effectiveness of dispersers.

Female control in yellow-legged gulls: trading paternity assurance for food

Velando, A., 2004. Female control in yellow-legged gulls: trading paternity assurance for food. Animal Behaviour, 67(5), pp.899-907.

Females in many socially monogamous birds copulate hundreds of times more than necessary for fertilization, although little is known about the benefits of this excess. Females may not directly benefit from high copulation rates, but instead may exploit male interest in copulating to obtain benefits. In species with courtship feeding, females may trade copulations for food (immediate benefits hypothesis). I tested this hypothesis by analysing female behaviour during courtship in yellow-legged gulls, Larus cachinnans. Female gulls to some extent controlled sperm transfer, because they moved during copulation bouts, and this behaviour influenced the number of cloacal contacts per mounting that the male achieved. Female control was related to previous feeding by the male, and hence the male courtship feeding rate correlated with the cloacal contact rate. Males that give more food probably enhance their chances of fathering offspring. By analysing within-individual female behaviour, I also found that the number of cloacal contacts was higher when the male fed the female than when he did not, which indicates that female gulls followed a decision rule to resist copulation when food is not given. Overall, these results support the hypothesis that female gulls manipulate their mates to obtain food.