Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia, Lauraceae) seed and seedling dispersers and predators
Pondberry (Lindera melissifolia(Walter) Blume) is an endangered dioecious, clonal shrub that grows in periodically flooded forests of the southeastern United States. The probability of survival of dispersed pondberry seeds and new germinants is unknown, but few seedlings are noted in the forest. This study was undertaken to: (1) identify herbivores and predators of pondberry seeds and seedlings, (2) record the fate of pondberry seeds and seedlings after simulated dispersal in areas with lower and higher understory cover, and (3) calculate the probability of seed survival in the two cover types. The study was conducted in or near the Delta National Forest and the Delta Experimental Forest, MS. Pondberry seed and seedling plots were established at sites with high or low cover. Video cameras with infrared illumination were set up to monitor animal visitors to the plots. Image analysis indicated that swamp rabbits (Sylvilagus aquaticus (Bachman)) and wood rats (Neotoma floridana Ord) cut or ate seedlings, while other animals visited the plots without damaging seedlings. Numerous bird species and mammals visited the seed plots and some were filmed eating seeds. Pondberry seeds exposed in open habitats had a significantly higher survival rate than those exposed in habitats with more herbaceous and woody understory cover. The novelty and quality of the temporal data collected via video monitoring indicate the importance of this method in collecting data that are not otherwise available on endangered and rare species.