Botanica Helvetica

, Volume 117, Issue 2, pp 109–124 | Cite as

Seed dispersal distances: a typology based on dispersal modes and plant traits

  • Pascal Vittoz
  • Robin Engler


Vittoz P. and Engler R. 2007. Seed dispersal distances: a typology based on dispersal modes and plant traits. Bot. Helv. 117: 109–124.

The ability of plants to disperse seeds may be critical for their survival under the current constraints of landscape fragmentation and climate change. Seed dispersal distance would therefore be an important variable to include in species distribution models. Unfortunately, data on dispersal distances are scarce, and seed dispersal models only exist for some species with particular dispersal modes. To overcome this lack of knowledge, we propose a simple approach to estimate seed dispersal distances for a whole regional flora. We reviewed literature about seed dispersal in temperate regions and compiled data for dispersal distances together with information about the dispersal mode and plant traits. Based on this information, we identified seven “dispersal types” with similar dispersal distances. For each type, upper limits for the distance within which 50% and 99% of a species’ seeds will disperse were estimated with the 80th percentile of the available values. These distances varied 5000-fold among the seven dispersal types, but generally less than 50-fold within the types. Thus, our dispersal types represented a large part of the variation in observed dispersal distances. The attribution of a dispersal type to a particular species only requires information that is already available in databases for most Central European species, i.e. dispersal vector (e.g. wind, animals), the precise mode of dispersal (e.g. dyszoochory, epizoochory), and species traits influencing the efficiency of dispersal (e.g. plant height, typical habitats). This typology could be extended to other regions and will make it possible to include seed dispersal in species distribution models.


Anemochory anthropochory autochory hydrochory plant migration zoochory 


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Supplementary material

35_2007_797_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (84 kb)
ESM (PDF 84 kb)

Copyright information

© Birkhaeuser 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Geosciences and EnvironmentUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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