Understanding strategies for seed dispersal by wind under contrasting atmospheric conditions

S. Joseph Wright, Ana Trakhtenbrot, Gil Bohrer, Matteo Detto, Gabriel G. Katul, Nir Horvitz, Helene C. Muller-Landau, Frank A. Jones, Ran Nathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Traits associated with seed dispersal vary tremendously among sympatric wind-dispersed plants. We used two contrasting tropical tree species, seed traps, micrometeorology, and a mechanistic model to evaluate how variation in four key traits affects seed dispersal by wind. The conceptual framework of movement ecology, wherein external factors (wind) interact with internal factors (plant traits) that enable movement and determine when and where movement occurs, fully captures the variable inputs and outputs of wind dispersal models and informs their interpretation. We used model calculations to evaluate the spatial pattern of dispersed seeds for the 16 factorial combinations of four traits. The study species differed dramatically in traits related to the timing of seed release, and a strong species by season interaction affected most aspects of the spatial pattern of dispersed seeds. A rich interplay among plant traits and seasonal differences in atmospheric conditions caused this interaction. Several of the same plant traits are crucial for both seed dispersal and other aspects of life history variation. Observed traits that limit dispersal are likely to be constrained by their life history consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19084-19089
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 9 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Atmospheric turbulence
  • Conditional seed release
  • Coupled Eulerian-Lagrangian closure (CELC) model
  • Long distance dispersal
  • Tropical forest


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