Minor, R. L. and J. L. Koprowski. 2015. Seed removal increased by scramble competition with an invasive species. PLoS ONE 10:e0143927. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143927
Competition for seeds has a major influence on the evolution of granivores and the plants on which they rely. The complexity of interactions and coevolutionary relationships vary across forest types. The introduction of non-native granivores has considerable potential to alter seed dispersal dynamics. Non-native species are a major cause of endangerment for native species, but the mechanisms are often unclear. As biological invasions continue to rise, it is important to understand mechanisms to build up strategies to mitigate the threat. Our field experiment quantified the impact of introduced Abert’s squirrels (Sciurus aberti) on rates of seed removal within the range of critically endangered Mount Graham red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis), which consumes similar foods. In the presence of invasive Abert’s squirrels, the time cones were removed was faster than when the invasive was excluded, accounting for a median removal time of cones available to red and Abert’s squirrels that is 32.8% less than that of cones available only to the rare native red squirrels. Moreover, in the presence of Abert’s squirrels, removal rates are higher at great distance from a territorial red squirrel larderhoard and in more open portions of the forest, which suggests differential patterns of seed dispersal. The impact on food availability as a result of cone removal by Abert’s squirrels suggests the potential of food competition as a mechanism of endangerment for the Mount Graham red squirrel. Furthermore, the magnitude and differential spatial patterns of seed removal suggest that non-native granivores may have impacts on forest regeneration and structure.