How important is long-distance seed dispersal for the regional survival of plant species?

M.B. Soons, W.A. Ozinga

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Long-distance seed dispersal is generally assumed to be important for the regional survival of plant species. In this study, we quantified the importance of long-distance seed dispersal for regional survival of plant species using wind dispersal as an example. We did this using a new approach, by first relating plant species' dispersal traits to seed dispersal kernels and then relating the kernels to regional survival of the species. We used a recently developed and tested mechanistic seed dispersal model to calculate dispersal kernels from dispersal traits. We used data on 190 plant species and calculated their regional survival in two ways, using species distribution data from 36,800 1 km2-grid cells and 10,754 small plots covering the Netherlands during the largest part of the 20th century. We carried out correlation and stepwise multiple regression analyses to quantify the importance of long-distance dispersal, expressed as the 99-percentile dispersal distance of the dispersal kernels, relative to the importance of median-distance dispersal and other plant traits that are likely to contribute to the explanation of regional survival: plant longevity (annual, biennial, perennial), seed longevity, and plant nutrient requirement. Results show that long-distance dispersal plays a role in determining regional survival, and is more important than median-distance dispersal and plant longevity. However, long-distance dispersal by wind explains only 1-3% of the variation in regional survival between species and is equally important as seed longevity and much less important than nutrient requirement. In changing landscapes such as in the Netherlands, where large-scale eutrophication and habitat destruction took place in the 20th century, plant traits indicating ability to grow under the changed, increasingly nutrient-rich conditions turn out to be much more important for regional survival than seed dispersal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • environmental-conditions
  • wind
  • communities
  • grassland
  • migration
  • colonization
  • determinants
  • biodiversity
  • vegetation
  • diversity

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