Removal of acorns of the alien oak Quercus rubra on the ground by scatter-hoarding animals in Belgian forests.
Description of the subject. Quercus rubra L. is considered an invasive species in several European countries. However, little is known about its dispersal in the introduced range. Objectives. We investigated the significance of animal dispersal of Q. rubra acorns on the ground by vertebrates in its introduced range, and identified the animal species involved. Method. During two consecutive autumns, the removal of acorns from Q. rubra and from a native oak was assessed weekly in forest sites in Belgium. We used automated detection camera traps to identify the animals that removed acorns. Results. Quercus rubra acorns were removed by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus L.), red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris L.), rats (Rattus sp.), and wild boars (Sus scrofa L.). The two former are scatter-hoarding rodents and can be considered potential dispersers. Conclusions. Dispersal of Q. rubra acorns in Western Europe by scatter-hoarding animals may help the species increasingly colonize forest ecosystems.