Seed dispersal mutualisms with scatter-hoarders play a crucial role in population dynamics of temperate large-seeded trees. These behaviors shape seed dispersal patterns, which can be applied to conservation of populations, communities, and even ecosystems dominated by large-seeded trees. We draw on a growing body of literature to describe the ecological context and consequences of scatter-hoarding as a seed dispersal mechanism. We synthesize the quantitative literature on the interaction between members of the avian family Corvidae (crows, ravens, jays, magpies, and nutcrackers) and nut-bearing trees such as pines (Pinus spp.) and oaks (Quercus spp.) to examine unique aspects of avian scatter-hoarders as seed dispersers. During the scatter-hoarding process, seed selectivity, transportation distance, hoarding frequency, and cache placement affect seed dispersal effectiveness, a measure of the quantity and quality of dispersal. Case studies from around the world highlight the role of corvid seed dispersal in population dynamics of trees, and how the birds' scatter-hoarding behavior can be facilitated for the restoration of oak- and pine-dominated habitats. This mutualism, which provides many plant species with long-distance, high-quality seed dispersal, will likely become even more important for conservation of oak and pine ecosystems as suitable climates shift rapidly in the decades ahead. This ecosystem service provided by corvids could therefore serve as an efficient conservation tool.
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Vol. 118 • No. 2