Seed dispersal effectiveness revisited: a conceptual review

New Phytol. 2010 Oct;188(2):333-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03402.x. Epub 2010 Jul 28.


Growth in seed dispersal studies has been fast-paced since the seed disperser effectiveness (SDE) framework was developed 17 yr ago. Thus, the time is ripe to revisit the framework in light of accumulated new insight. Here, we first present an overview of the framework, how it has been applied, and what we know and do not know. We then introduce the SDE landscape as the two-dimensional representation of the possible combinations of the quantity and the quality of dispersal and with elevational contours representing isoclines of SDE. We discuss the structure of disperser assemblages on such landscapes. Following this we discuss recent advances and ideas in seed dispersal in the context of their impacts on SDE. Finally, we highlight a number of emerging issues that provide insight into SDE. Overall, the SDE framework successfully captures the complexities of seed dispersal. We advocate an expanded use of the term dispersal encompassing the multiple recruitment stages from fruit to adult. While this entails difficulties in estimating SDE, it is a necessary expansion if we are to understand the central relevance of seed dispersal in plant ecology and evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Seed Dispersal / physiology*
  • Seeds / growth & development