New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2004) 28(1): 93- 103

Effects of forest edges, fruit display size, and fruit colour on bird seed dispersal in a New Zealand mistletoe, Alepis flavida

Research Article
Catherine E. Bach 1
Dave Kelly 2
  1. Department of Biology, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 U.S.A.
  2. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand

This study examined how forest edges, fruit display size, and fruit colour influenced rates of seed dispersal in an endemic, bird-dispersed, New Zealand mistletoe species, Alepis flavida. To examine rates of seed dispersal, fruit removal rates were compared between plants growing on forest edges and in forest interior, and also between two morphs of plants with different coloured fruits. Two aspects of fruit display size were examined: plant size and the neighbourhood of conspecific plants. There was no overall difference in fruit removal rates on forest edges and in forest interior, but birds removed fruits from red-fruited plants at a faster rate than from orange-fruited plants. Proximity of plant neighbours interacted with edges to influence fruit removal rates. The smaller the distance to nearest neighbours, the greater the fruit removal rates for orange-fruited plants in both habitats, but this relationship was significant for red-fruited plants only in the interior. Plant size affected fruit removal rates for orange-fruited plants, but not for red-fruited plants, and these differences were consistent in both habitats. Thus, fruit colour had the strongest effects on rates of fruit removal in this system, but forest edges also affected fruit removal rates, via altering the effects of neighbouring plants. Although birds prefer red fruits, there appears to be little selection pressure against orange-fruited plants because fruit removal rates are very high for both morphs.