Context . Mutualistic interactions between animals and plants shape the structure of plant–animal systems and, subsequently, affect plant-community structure and regeneration.
Aims . To assess the effects of plant and rodent functional traits on the formation of mutualistic and predatory interactions regarding seed dispersal and predation in a warm-temperate forest.
Methods . Seed scatter-hoarding and predation by six sympatric rodent species on seeds belonging to five sympatric tree species were tested under enclosure conditions.
Key results . Functional traits (i.e. rodent body size and seed traits) are important to mutualism/predation in this seed–rodent system. The rodent–seed network is highly nested: large-sized rodents have mutualistic or predatory interactions with both large- and small-sized seed species, but small-sized rodents interacted with small-sized seed species only. Large seeds or seeds with hard coats enhanced mutualism and reduced predation.
Conclusion . Body size of rodents and seed traits such as handling time and nutritional value are key factors in the formation of mutualistic and predatory interactions within seed–rodent systems.
Implications . To promote seedling establishment in degenerated forests, introducing or protecting large-sized scatter hoarders and reducing the density of pure seed eaters are needed.