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Sci Adv. 2019 Feb 20;5(2):eaau4403. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4403. eCollection 2019 Feb.

Seed predation increases from the Arctic to the Equator and from high to low elevations.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Dr. Penfield Ave., Montreal, QC H3A 1B1, Canada.
2
Department of Zoology and Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
3
Instituto Biósfera & Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador.
4
Red de Ecología Funcional, Instituto de Ecología, A.C., carretera antigua a Coatepec No. 351, El Haya, Xalapa, 91070 Veracruz, México.
5
School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3FF, UK.
6
Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, Carr Tijuana-Ensenada 3918, Fraccionamiento Zona Playitas, 22860 Ensenada, México.
7
Botanical Research Institute of Texas, 1700 University Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76107, USA.
8
Department of Biology, University of Nevada Reno, 1664 N Virginia street, Reno, NV 89557, USA.
9
National Council of Science and Technology & University of Guadalajara, Apdo. Postal 4-014, Col. La Loma, Guadalajara, 44421 Jalisco, México.
10
Bulkley Valley Research Centre and University of Northern British Columbia, Smithers, BC, Canada.
11
Laboratorio Integral de Fauna Silvestre, Facultad de Ciencias Químico Biológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero, Av. Lázaro Cárdenas s/n, Chilpancingo, 39000 Guerrero, México.
12
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Minnesota, 1479 Gortner Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.
13
Division of Biological Sciences and Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.
14
Herbario Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad de Antioquia, Calle 67 No. 53-108, Medellín, Colombia.

Abstract

Species interactions have long been predicted to increase in intensity toward the tropics and low elevations because of gradients in climate, productivity, or biodiversity. Despite their importance for understanding global ecological and evolutionary processes, plant-animal interaction gradients are particularly difficult to test systematically across large geographic gradients, and evidence from smaller, disparate studies is inconclusive. By systematically measuring postdispersal seed predation using 6995 standardized seed depots along 18 mountains in the Pacific cordillera, we found that seed predation increases by 17% from the Arctic to the Equator and by 17% from 4000 meters above sea level to sea level. Clines in total predation, likely driven by invertebrates, were consistent across treeline ecotones and within continuous forest and were better explained by climate seasonality than by productivity, biodiversity, or latitude. These results suggest that species interactions play predictably greater ecological and evolutionary roles in tropical, lowland, and other less seasonal ecosystems.

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