Research ArticleEVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

Seed predation increases from the Arctic to the Equator and from high to low elevations

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Science Advances  20 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaau4403
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4403

Abstract

Species interactions have long been predicted to increase in intensity toward the tropics and low elevations because of gradients in climate, productivity, or biodiversity. Despite their importance for understanding global ecological and evolutionary processes, plant-animal interaction gradients are particularly difficult to test systematically across large geographic gradients, and evidence from smaller, disparate studies is inconclusive. By systematically measuring postdispersal seed predation using 6995 standardized seed depots along 18 mountains in the Pacific cordillera, we found that seed predation increases by 17% from the Arctic to the Equator and by 17% from 4000 meters above sea level to sea level. Clines in total predation, likely driven by invertebrates, were consistent across treeline ecotones and within continuous forest and were better explained by climate seasonality than by productivity, biodiversity, or latitude. These results suggest that species interactions play predictably greater ecological and evolutionary roles in tropical, lowland, and other less seasonal ecosystems.

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