Habitat fragmentation can create significant impediments to dispersal. A technique to increase dispersal between otherwise isolated fragments is the use of corridors. Although previous studies have compared dispersal between connected fragments to dispersal between unconnected fragments, it remains unknown how dispersal between fragments connected by a corridor compares to dispersal in unfragmented landscapes. To assess the extent to which corridors can restore dispersal in fragmented landscapes to levels observed in unfragmented landscapes, we employed a stable-isotope marking technique to track seeds within four unfragmented landscapes and eight experimental landscapes with fragments connected by corridors. We studied two wind-and two bird-dispersed plant species, because previous community-based research showed that dispersal mode explains how connectivity effects vary among species. We constructed dispersal kernels for these species in unfragmented landscapes and connected fragments by marking seeds in the center of each landscape with 15N and then recovering marked seeds in seed traps at distances up to 200 m. For the two wind-dispersed plants, seed dispersal kernels were similar in unfragmented landscapes and connected fragments. In contrast, dispersal kernels of birddispersed seeds were both affected by fragmentation and differed in the direction of the impact: Morella cerifera experienced more and Rhus copallina experienced less long-distance dispersal in unfragmented than in connected landscapes. These results show that corridors can facilitate dispersal probabilities comparable to those observed in unfragmented landscapes. Although dispersal mode may provide useful broad predictions, we acknowledge that similar species may respond uniquely due to factors such as seasonality and disperser behavior. Our results further indicate that prior work has likely underestimated dispersal distances of wind-dispersed plants and that factors altering long-distance dispersal may have a greater impact on the spread of species than previously thought.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics