Increased abundance and distribution of eastern redcedar (Juniperns virginiannus), a native species in the Great Plains, has been associated with changes in ecosystem functioning and landscape cover. Knowledge of the main consumers and dispersal agents of eastern red cedar cones is essential to understanding the invasive spread of the species. We examined animal removal of cedar cones in three habitats (tallgrass prairie, eastern red cedar and woodland-prairie margins) in the Cross Timbers ecoregion using three exclosure treatments during autumn and winter. Exclosure treatments excluded study trees from ungulates, from terrestrial rodents and ungulates or from neither (control). Loss of cones from branches varied by a habitat-time interaction, but was not affected by exclosure type. Loss of cones from containers located under experimental trees varied by a habitat-treatment-time interaction. In December and January, cone consumption from containers in no-exclosure treatments was highest in margins, followed by tallgrass prairie and eastern red cedar habitats. We conclude birds consumed the majority of cones from branches and small-and medium-sized mammals consumed cones on the ground. Both birds and mammals likely contribute to the spread of eastern red cedar but at different scales. Limiting invasion of eastern red cedar in forests may require early detection and selective removal of pioneer seedlings in cross timbers and other habitats that attract a high diversity or density of frugivores.
Additional publication details
Differential consumption of eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) by avian and mammalian guilds: Implications for tree invasion