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We review whether migratory Anatidae, i.e., swans, geese and ducks, could be acting as vectors for dispersal of Zostera, Ruppia and Potamogeton propagules by endozoochory (carrying seeds in their guts). We list six prerequisites that must all be fulfilled, if successful dispersal should occur. Several Anatidae species feed on these macrophytes, and undertake rapid long-distance movements, making dispersal possible. We identify four problems, which in combination leads us to conclude that long-distance dispersal events are likely to be rare. (i) Most long-distance movements are out of phase with the reproductive efforts of the plants, and if birds arrive at sites when plants still bear seeds, they are likely to depart well after seed stocks have been depleted. (ii) Seed transport by birds will usually be uni-directional, from north to south on autumn migrations. (iii) Most of the gut contents of migratory birds are likely to have been discarded within 300 km of departure. (iv) In many cases, birds will arrive in habitats seriously different from those they departed, i.e., any seeds carried along will have low chances of surviving in their new site. We suggest that northbound dispersal by endozoochory can only occur during spring if waterbirds feed on seeds that have not been depleted and remained frozen down or buried in sediments, or during moult- or post-moult migrations. Moult migration takes place in summer in phase with the reproductive efforts of the plants. Also epizoochorous dispersal (external attachment) is subject to restrictions i, ii and iv. [KEYWORDS: Anas; Branta; Cygnus; Potamogeton; Ruppia; Zostera marina]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-203
JournalActa Oecologica
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

ID: 120507