The importance of long-distance seed dispersal for the demography and distribution of a canopy tree species.

T. Trevor Caughlin, Jake M. Ferguson, Jeremy W. Lichstein, Sarayudh Bunyavejchewin, Douglas J. Levey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Long-distance seed dispersal (LDD) is considered a crucial determinant of tree distributions, but its effects depend on demographic processes that enable seeds to establish into adults and that remain poorly understood at large spatial scales. We estimated rates of seed arrival, germination, and survival and growth for a canopy tree species (Miliusa horsfieldii), in a landscape ranging from evergreen forest, where the species' abundance is high, to deciduous forest, where it is extremely low. We then used an individual-based model (IBM) to predict sapling establishment and to compare the relative importance of seed arrival and establishment in explaining the observed distribution of seedlings. Individuals in deciduous forest, far from the source population, experienced multiple benefits (e.g., increased germination rate and seedling survival and growth) from being in a habitat where conspecifics were almost absent. The net effect of these spatial differences in demographic processes was significantly higher estimated sapling establishment probabilities for seeds dispersed long distances into deciduous forest. Despite the high rate of establishment in this habitat, Miliusa is rare in the deciduous forest because the arrival of seeds at long distances from the source population is extremely low. Across the entire landscape, the spatial pattern of seed arrival is much more important than the spatial pattern of establishment for explaining observed seedling distributions. By using dynamic models to link demographic data to spatial patterns, we show that LDD plays a pivotal role in the distribution of this tree in its native habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)952-962
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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