All in the timing: how fruit nutritional content influences the timing of fruit consumption of two invasive shrubs.
The functional role that invasive species occupy within their new range is of significant interest for those concerned about invasive species management. Of particular importance is the distribution mechanisms of invasive plants. Viburnum dilatatum and Viburnum sieboldii are considered invasive species in New Jersey forest understories. We have observed that while the fruit of both species ripens at the same time, there is a difference in how long fruit persists. To better understand the temporal pattern, we examine fruit phenology and consumption, as well as energy density, percentage crude fat, and antioxidant capacity. We hypothesized that the difference in the timing of fruit consumption in these species is largely driven by nutritional content and that fruit with higher energy and fat content are eaten during migration. Our results indicate that V. sieboldii fruit is depleted in the fall, while V. dilatatum fruit persists into winter. In addition, we found that V. sieboldii fruit had higher energy density and 4.4 times as much crude fat compared to that of V. dilatatum fruit. However, V. dilatatum fruit had 9.5 times greater antioxidant capacity than V. sieboldii fruit. We also found that V. sieboldii fruit is mainly consumed by gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) during the fall migration and the primary avian consumer of V. dilatatum fruit are American robins (Turdus migratorius) in the winter when birds are more sedentary. We suspect a mutualistic relationship has developed between these two invasive viburnum species and native avian frugivores. What remains to be seen is what effect different fruiting strategies have on seed dispersal.