Publication of Rui Elias demosntrates that birds are the main dispersers of Azores and Canary Islands Juniperus

Rumeu, B., Elias, R.B., Nogales, M., Padilla, D.P. & Melo, C. (2011). Differential seed dispersal systems of endemic junipers in two oceanic Macaronesian archipelagos: the influence of biogeographic and biological characteristics. Plant Ecology, 212: 911–921

This article evaluates the seed dispersal systems of two congeneric and endemic fleshy-fruited plants in the context of two relatively close oceanic archipelagos. For this purpose, representative populations of the endangered junipers Juniperus cedrus in the Canary Islands and Madeira, and Juniperus brevifolia in the Azores were studied. Despite both species sharing the same biogeographic region, we set out to test whether different conditions of the islands and biological characteristics of each juniper species determine the distinctive guilds of seed dispersers involved. We assessed the quantitative and qualitative role of the potential frugivores, showing that the wintering Turdus torquatus and the native Turdus merula were the main seed dispersers for J. cedrus and J. brevifolia, respectively (Frequency of occurrence: 74.9%, 80.2%; germination increase with respect to controls: 11.6%, 15.5%; for J. cedrus and J. brevifolia, respectively). The endemic lizard Gallotia galloti was quantitatively outstanding as seed disperser of J. cedrus, although its qualitative effect does not appear to be beneficial. The introduced rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus acts as a disruptor in both natural seed dispersal systems, as inferred from the high percentage of damaged seeds found in their droppings. Our results indicate that J. cedrus and J. brevifolia are primarily adapted to ornithochory processes, T. torquatus and T. merula being their respective legitimate long-distance dispersers. Although these birds should be playing a key role in the connectivity of fragmented populations, the dependence of J. cedrus on a migrant bird involves a notable fragility of the system