The effect of the seed abscission process on the dispersal distance of seeds has never been studied explicitly and is often ignored in studies that aim to estimate the seed shadows of species. To examine the importance of the abscission process for the seed shadow we used a seed trajectory model that keeps track of the release threshold dynamics of the individual seeds on mother plant. We defined the release threshold as the critical wind speed that induces a mechanical force that is just large enough to release a seed from its mother plant. The model used real wind speed sequences and seed appearance over time on the mother plant. Several calculations were performed to investigate the effect of release thresholds dynamics on seed shadow of two herbaceous species with contrasting terminal velocity values ( V t ): Centaurea jacea ( V t = 4.1 m s −1 ) and Hypochaeris radicata ( V t = 0.49 m s −1 ). Release thresholds were responsible for a two-fold increase of median dispersal distances in both species. Tails of the seed shadows, the fraction of seeds that travel furthest, were even more sensitive and increased with a factor 4.5 for Centaurea and 7.0 for Hypochaeris . Our work indicates that the abscission process appears to be very important and suggests that dispersal distance of plants is currently severely underestimated, which, in turn, has major consequences for our current understanding of the distribution, metapopulation dynamics and survival of plant species.
Ecological Modelling – Elsevier
Published: Jun 10, 2005
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