Royi Zidon, Hagar Leschner, Uzi Motro and David Saltz

Reintroduction of herbivores may play a vital role in restoring ecosystem functions. Here we describe the role of the Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica), reintroduced into Israel, as a vector of seed dispersal by endozoochory. Persian fallow deer have a wide diet both from grazing and browsing. From fecal samples, we found that more than 30 species of plants germinated from the deer pellets. Four of the more common species are considered as ruderal. Of the trees, carob (Ceratonia siliqua) seeds were the only intact seeds found in the fecal samples. We found that ingestion by the deer has a positive effect on expediting the germination of carob seeds – a factor of ecological importance in the reintroduction environment, as it contributes to plant genetic diversity by long-range seed dispersal and to community diversity.