1. In river ecosystems, populations are continuously subjected to unidirectional downstream currents resulting in a downstream movement of populations. To ensure long-term population persistence in rivers, organisms must have a mechanism for upstream dispersal, which allows them to re-colonise upstream areas. 2. In this study we assessed differences in the potential for endozoochorous seed dispersal of Sparganium emersum and Sagittaria sagittifolia, two aquatic plant species with different seed morphologies, by mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and teal (Anas crecca), two duck species with different body weights. 3. We found no significant differences in seed retrieval (the proportion of ingested seeds retrieved after gut passage) and seed retention time (time between seed ingestion and retrieval), between mallard and teal, despite the difference in body weights. We did find a significantly higher germination (%) over retention time of S. emersum seeds retrieved from teal compared with mallard, most likely related to a more efficient removal of the seed coat during passage through the gut of teal. 4. There were large differences between S. emersum versus S. sagittifolia in: (i) seed retrieval (22.65 ± 20.8% versus 1.60 ± 2.4%, respectively); (ii) seed retention time in duck gut, with a maximum of 60 h versus 12 h; (iii) the effect of gut passage on seed germination, with an increase of approximately 35% versus a decrease of 25%; and (iv) the effect of gut passage on seed germination rate, with an acceleration of 10 days versus a delay of 3 days on average. The results show that S. emersum 5. We propose that, in rivers, bird-mediated seed dispersal may promote re-colonisation of upstream areas, enabling long-term plant population persistence. [KEYWORDS: aquatic plants ; birds ; drift-paradox ; population persistence ; upstream dispersal ; zoochory]
Original languageEnglish
JournalFreshwater Biology
Journal publication date2005

ID: 69425