Pre-dispersal seed predation in a species-rich forest community: Patterns and the interplay with determinants
Pre-dispersal seed predation (PDSP) is commonly observed in woody plants, and recognized as a driver of seed production variability that is critical for successful regeneration. Earlier studies on PDSP and its determinants were mostly species specific, with community- level PDSP rarely estimated; and the interactions between the temporal variability of seed production and PDSP remain elusive. In this study, the community seed rain of woody plants in a mixed evergreen-deciduous broadleaf forest was monitored for seven years. We examined predation on collected seeds and analyzed the determinants of PDSP. PDSP was recorded in 17 out of 44 woody plant species, and three-quarters of PDSP was due to insect predators. Annual seed production varied substantially at community level, reversely linked with the temporal variation of PDSP rate. The PDSP rate was biased regarding fruit types, and being significantly correlated with seed mass when using phylogenetic independent contrasts (PICs) or without taking into account phylogenetic relations, especially for nuts. PDSP rate was also negatively correlated with seed density, showing a thresholdrelated predator satiation effect. The community-level PDSP rate was primarily determined by tree height, fruit type, and interannual variation of seed production and seed mass. Our analysis revealed a causal link between seed production and the dynamics of PDSP rate at the community level. The predator satiation effect was primarily contributed by the dominant species, whereas the rare species seemed to apply a distinct “hide-and-seek” strategy to control the risk of PDSP. The mechanistic difference of seed production between the common and rare species can shed new light on species coexistence and community assembly. Long-term monitoring of both seed rain and seed predation is required for understanding the ecological and evolutionary implications of species regeneration strategies in a speciesrich forest community.