Yucca brevifolia fruit production, predispersal seed predation, and fruit removal by rodents during two years of contrasting reproduction

American Journal of Botany
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Abstract

PREMISE OF THE STUDY: The distribution of Yucca brevifolia, a keystone species of the Mojave Desert, may contract with climate change, yet reproduction and dispersal are poorly understood. We tracked reproduction, seed predation, and fruit dispersal for two years and discuss whether Y. brevifolia is a masting species.

METHODS: Fruit maturation, seed predation (larval yucca moths), and fruit dispersal (rodents) were monitored on a random sample of panicles during 2013 and 2014, which were years of high and low reproduction, respectively. Fates of fruits placed on the ground and in canopies were also tracked. Rodents were live-trapped to assess abundance and species composition.

KEY RESULTS: In 2013, 66% of inflorescences produced fruit of which 53% escaped larval predation; 19.5% of seeds were destroyed in infested fruits. Total seed production was estimated to be >100 times greater in 2013 than 2014. One-third of the fruit crop fell to the ground and was removed by rodents over the course of 120 d. After ground fruits became scarce, rodents exploited canopy fruits. Rodent numbers were low in 2013, so fruits remained in canopies for 370 d. In 2014, fruit production was approximately 20% lower. Larvae infested the majority of fruits, and almost twice the number of seeds were damaged. Fruits were exploited by rodents within 65 d.

CONCLUSIONS: High fertilization, prolific seed production, and low predispersal predation in 2013 suggests that pollinator attraction and satiation of seed predators influence masting in Y. brevifolia. Abundant, prolonged fruit availability to seed-dispersing rodents likely extends recruitment opportunities during mast years.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Yucca brevifolia fruit production, predispersal seed predation, and fruit removal by rodents during two years of contrasting reproduction
Series title American Journal of Botany
DOI 10.3732/ajb.1500516
Volume 103
Issue 5
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Botanical Society of America
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 7 p.
First page 830
Last page 836
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N