Trade-off between seed dispersal in space and time

Ecol Lett. 2020 Nov;23(11):1635-1642. doi: 10.1111/ele.13595. Epub 2020 Sep 2.


Seed movement and delayed germination have long been thought to represent alternative risk-spreading strategies, but current evidence covers limited scales and yields mixed results. Here we present the first global-scale test of a negative correlation between dispersal and dormancy. The result demonstrates a strong and consistent pattern that species with dormant seeds have reduced spatial dispersal, also in the context of life-history traits such as seed mass and plant lifespan. Long-lived species are more likely to have large, non-dormant seeds that are dispersed far. Our findings provide robust support for the theoretical prediction of a dispersal trade-off between space and time, implying that a joint consideration of risk-spreading strategies is imperative in studying plant life-history evolution. The bet-hedging patterns in the dispersal-dormancy correlation and the associated reproductive traits have implications for biodiversity conservation, via prediction of which plant groups would be most impacted in the changing era.

Keywords: Annual; dormancy; germination; iteroparity; lifespan; longevity; perennial; seed bank; seed dispersal.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Germination
  • Plant Dormancy
  • Seed Dispersal*
  • Seeds