Vertebrate-dispersed species in a fire-prone environment

Kristine French*, Mark Westoby

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    It is hypothesized that plant species that produce vertebrate-dispersed seeds (fleshy fruits and brightly coloured arillate seeds) would not be common in fire-prone vegetation because seeds are deposited on the soil surface and are unlikely to survive fires. They have not previously been known to have any means of burial that would enable them to await the next fire as a buried soil seed-bank. We studied vertebrate-dispersed species in fire-prone sclerophyll vegetation to look at mechanisms used by vertebrate-dispersed plants for persisting in these environments. Seeds do not survive heating to 150°C, although species from fire-prone environments are more likely to tolerate moderate heating (80°C) without affecting viability than vertebrate-dispersed species from environments where fire is rare. Most vertebrate-dispersed species have the capacity to regenerate vegetatively, although they are not more likely to have this strategy than ant-dispersed species. Finally, ants do take vertebrate-dispersed seeds and fruits (particularly small ones) indicating the potential for the formation of a soil seed-bank. Some species only persist in fire-prone environments by recolonizing from unburnt areas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)379-385
    Number of pages7
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1996


    • ant dispersal
    • fire
    • fire-prone environments
    • regeneration
    • seed survival
    • vertebrate dispersal


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