The introduction of non-native seed dispersers has the potential to significantly alter distributions and relative abundances of native plants. Although effects of introduced seed predators have been documented, little is known about how introduced dispersers influence seed movement patterns. We investigated seed removal of seven rainforest species on the island of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles by the entire seed-remover community and specifically by the Red-rumped Agouti, Dasyprocta leporina, a scatter-hoarding rodent introduced to the island approximately 2500 years ago. We recorded removal rates in three regions of Dominica from 168 experimentally placed seed groups containing a total of 1356 seeds. Seed groups were either accessible to the entire seed-remover community or placed within exclosures designed to exclude agoutis. Within 13 days, 47 percent and 28 percent of seeds had been removed from control groups and agouti exclosure groups, respectively, leading to 19 percent of seed removal being attributed to agoutis. Species with smaller seeds were preferentially taken by seed removers other than agoutis, whereas agoutis were responsible for the majority of the removal of larger-seeded species. Seed removal was greater in areas with higher regional conspecific adult densities regardless of treatment, but agoutis had a greater impact relative to other seed removers on the seed removal of the study's rarest species. The results of this study highlight the potential impacts that introduced dispersers may have on native plant communities and call for further study of disperser introductions worldwide.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1