Weeds are selected to produce overwhelming propagule pressure, and while vertebrate and invertebrate seed predators destroy a large percentage of seeds, their ecosystem services may not be sufficient to overcome germination site limitations. Cover crops are suggested to facilitate seed predation, but it is difficult to disentangle reductions in weed recruitment attributable to granivores from those due to plant competition. Using common lambsquarters as a focal weed species, we used experimental seed subsidies and differential seed predator exclusion to evaluate the utility of vertebrate and invertebrate seed predators in fallow, killed cover crop, and living mulch systems. Over two growing seasons, we found that seed predators were responsible for a 38% reduction in seedling emergence and 81% reduction in weed biomass in fallow plots following simulated seed rain, suggesting that granivory indeed overcomes safe-site limitation and suppresses weeds. However, the common lambsquarters densities in ambient seedbanks across fallow and cover crop treatments were high, and seed predators did not impact their abundance. Across the study, we found either neutral or negative effects of vertebrate seed predators on seed predation, suggesting that invertebrate seed predators contribute most to common lamnsquarters regulation in our system. These results imply that weed seed biocontrol by invertebrates can reduce propagule pressure initially following senescence, but other tools must be leveraged for long-term seedbank management.
Nomenclature: Common lambsquarters, Chenopodium album L. CHEAL.