Effects of Rufous-backed Robin (Turdus rufopalliatus) on Brazilian pepper-tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) seed germination and dispersal in a subtropical peri-urban environment.
Alien invasive species pose a major threat to socioecological systems worldwide. Native avian frugivores may enhance the dispersal and germination success of exotic plants introduced for ornamental motives. In this study, we investigated the role of the native Rufous-backed Robin (Turdus rufopalliatus) as a potential dispersal agent of the worldwide invasive Brazilian pepper-tree (Schinus terebinthifolius). We evaluated gut transit time and mean retention time for birds feeding on this plant fruits and compared the germination rate and germination probability of intact fruits, peeled seeds, scarified seeds, and seeds from bird fecal samples. Gut transit time varied from 1.26 to 13.65 min, while mean retention time varied from 3.4 to 11.3 min. Germination rates differed between the intact seeds and the other three treatments; however, we found no differences among the germination rates of peeled, scarified, and defecated seeds. We found no differences among the seed germination probabilities of all treatments using the survival analysis; however, intact seeds presented a lower germination probability. Few studies have evaluated the role of avian frugivore's gut transit time, mean retention time, germination rate, and germination probability on the seed germination of invasive plants. This study indicates that a native fruit-eating bird can play an important role dispersing the seeds of the Brazilian pepper-tree in an invasive range.