Distribution patterns of fleshy-fruited woody plants at local and regional scales

Sammanfattning: Fleshy-fruited woody plants share a long history with humans, providing us with food and wood material. Because of this relation, we have actively moved some of these plants across landscapes and continents. In Sweden, these species are often found in open and semi-open habitats such as forest edges, their fruits are most often dispersed by birds and their flowers are, with some exceptions, pollinated by insects.  In this thesis my overall aim was to map and analyse distribution patterns of fleshy-fruited woody plants in Sweden to expand our knowledge on the mechanisms governing their distributions. First, I mapped a population of the early flowering, fleshy-fruited shrub Daphne mezereum (common mezeron, tibast) and surveyed the reproduction and fruit removal of all individuals (chapter I). My main aim was to investigate to what extent reproduction and fruit removal was affected by local distribution patterns. Secondly, I mapped local distribution patterns of fleshy-fruited woody species and analysed spatial associations between life stages and species (chapter II). My main aim was to relate these spatial associations to predictions of how bird dispersal would shape the local distribution patterns and the hypothesis that birds create ‘wild orchards’. Thirdly, I digitized historical maps and surveyed fleshy-fruited woody species along transects across landscapes (chapter III). My aim was to examine the hypothesis that these species accumulate in open and semi open habitats created by human land use. Fourthly, I estimated range filling of woody plants in Sweden at a 1 km2 resolution (chapter IV). My aim was to compare these estimates among species with different dispersal systems to understand the effect of dispersal on the occupancy of woody species at regional scales.I found the distribution patterns of these species to be affected by past and present land use, supporting the hypothesis that these plants accumulate in open habitats. Occurrences of species in this guild in todays’ forest are positively related to past human land use (chapter III) and the density of D. mezereum increases with decreasing distances to forest edges (chapter I). This accumulation may in part be explained by the positive effect of forest edges on reproduction and fruit removal (chapter I). I further found local distribution patterns of this guild and the individual species to be aggregated (chapter I and II), and spatial associations between saplings and reproductive individuals to support the ‘orchard’ hypothesis (chapter II). The aggregated pattern of fruit-bearing individuals was positively related to fruit removal whereas aggregated flowering individuals was negatively related to fruit set (chapter I). On the regional scale, I found these species to occupy climatically suitable areas, or fill their potential ranges, to a less extent that wind dispersed trees and shrubs (chapter IV), which may indicate dispersal limitation.In conclusion, the behaviour of birds and humans have shaped, and still shape the current distribution of fleshy-fruited trees and shrubs in Sweden, resulting in accumulation in open habitats and locally aggregated distribution patterns. Changing land-use practices and potential mismatches between fruit maturation and bird dispersal with a changing climate may thus result in even lower chances of these species to fill their potential ranges, due to habitat losses and dispersal limitations at local and regional scales.  

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