Plant Ecology

, Volume 215, Issue 6, pp 651–660 | Cite as

Importance of functional traits and regional species pool in predicting long-distance dispersal in savanna ecosystems

  • Akomian Fortuné Azihou
  • Romain Glèlè Kakaï
  • Brice Sinsin


Long-distance dispersal (LDD) of plants is difficult to measure but disproportionately important for various ecological and evolutionary processes. Dispersal of seeds of gallery-forest trees in savanna provides an opportunity for the study of colonisation processes and species coexistence driven by LDD. Investigations were carried out on 91 isolated trees along four gallery forests sampled in the Biosphere Reserve of Pendjari, Benin. The abundance of adult trees within nearest gallery forest was combined with functional traits (species maximum height, seed weight, morphological adaptation for dispersal by wind, water, birds and mammals) to explain the floristic composition of forest seedlings and saplings under isolated trees and in savanna. Stepwise negative binomial regression was used to identify the most significant variables explaining abundance of seedlings and saplings beneath isolated trees and in savanna and then derive colonisation from seedlings and persistence from saplings. The maximum height of species and seed weight explained the highest proportion of variance in species colonisation. Morphological dispersal syndromes by wind and birds had poor explanatory importance. Species rare in gallery forest had higher potential to colonise new environments through LDD whilst abundant species had higher persistence abilities. Contrary to the predictions of the seedling-size effect, small-seeded species dominated the sapling stage. The findings revealed the strong dependence of LDD and subsequent colonisation and persistence processes on species traits specialised for a variety of dispersal vectors. They also suggest that LDD towards isolated trees established far away from gallery forest can be difficult.


Coexistence Colonisation Dispersal strategy types Functional traits Local communities Regional species 



Investigations were funded by LOEWE—Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F). A. F. Azihou was supported by ‘Programme d’Appui à l’Enseignement Supérieur (PAES)’ of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) through Grant No. 11484/2011/DDS/DESFP/PAES. We thank François Djatto and Henri Noundja for assistance in the field. The manuscript has been greatly improved with thoughtful reviews by Moses Adedire, Aristide Adomou, Achille Assogbadjo, Nestor Sokpon, Adjima Thiombiano and two anonymous reviewers.


  1. Adler PB, Fajardo A, Kleinhesselink AR, Kraft NJB (2013) Trait-based tests of coexistence mechanisms. Ecol Lett 16:1294–1306PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akoegninou A, Van Der Burg WJ, Van Der Maesen LJG, Adjakidje V, Essou JP, Sinsin B, Yedomonhan H (2006) Flore analytique du Bénin. Wageningen UniversityGoogle Scholar
  3. Azihou AF, Glèlè Kakaï R, Bellefontaine R, Sinsin B (2013a) Distribution of tree species along a gallery forest–savanna gradient: patterns, overlaps and ecological thresholds. J Trop Ecol 29:25–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Azihou AF, Glèlè Kakaï R, Sinsin B (2013b) Do isolated gallery-forest trees facilitate recruitment of forest seedlings and saplings in savanna? Acta Oecol 53:11–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baddeley A, Turner R (2005) Spatstat: an R package for analyzing spatial point patterns. J Stat Softw 12:1–42Google Scholar
  6. Calviño-Cancela M, Dunn RR, Van Etten EJ, Lamont BB (2006) Emus as non-standard seed dispersers and their potential for long-distance dispersal. Ecography 29:632–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Calviño-Cancela M, He T, Lamont BB (2008) Distribution of myrmecochorous species over the landscape and their potential long-distance dispersal by emus and kangaroos. Divers Distrib 14:11–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carlo TA, Garcia D, Martinez D, Gleditsch JM, Morales JM (2013) Where do seeds go when they go far? Distance and directionality of avian seed dispersal in heterogeneous landscapes. Ecology 94:301–307PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Connell JH (1971) On the role of natural enemies in preventing competitive exclusion in some marine animals and rain forest trees. In: Den Boer PJ, Gradwell G (eds) Dynamics of populations. PUDOC, Wageningen, pp 298–312Google Scholar
  10. Courchamp F, Clutton-Brock TH, Grenfell B (1999) Inverse density dependence and the Allee effect. Trends Ecol Evol 14:405–410PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duarte LS, Dos Santos MMG, Hartz SM, Pillar VD (2006) Role of nurse plants on Araucaria Forest expansion over grassland in south Brazil. Aust Ecol 31:520–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eriksson O (1993) The species-pool hypotheses and plant community diversity. Oikos 68:371–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gignoux J, Lahoreau G, Julliard R, Barot S (2009) Establishment and early persistence of tree seedlings in an annually burned savanna. J Ecol 97:484–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hampe A (2011) Plants on the move: the role of seed dispersal and initial population establishment for climate-driven range expansions. Acta Oecol 37:666–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Higgins SI, Nathan R, Cain ML (2003) Are long-distance dispersal events in plants usually caused by nonstandard means of dispersal? Ecology 84:1945–1956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. HilleRisLambers J, Adler PB, Harpole WS, Levine JM, Mayfield MM (2012) Rethinking community assembly through the lens of coexistence theory. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 43:227–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hirsch BT, Kays R, Pereira VE, Jansen PA (2012) Directed seed dispersal toward areas with low conspecific tree density by a scatter-hoarding rodent. Ecol Lett 15:1423–1429PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holmes EE, Wilson HB (1998) Running from trouble: long-distance dispersal and the competitive co-existence of inferior species. Am Nat 151:578–586PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hughes L, Dunlop M, French K, Leishman MR, Rice B, Rodgerson L, Westoby M (1994) Predicting dispersal spectra—a minimal set of hypotheses based on plant attributes. J Ecol 82:933–950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Janzen DH (1970) Herbivores and the number of tree species in tropical forests. Am Nat 104:501–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jordan GJ (2001) An investigation of long-distance dispersal based on species native to both Tasmania and New Zealand. Aust J Bot 49:333–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jurado E, Westoby M, Nelson D (1991) Diaspore weight, dispersal, growth form and perenniality of Central Australian plants. J Ecol 79:811–830CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Katul GG, Porporato A, Nathan R, Siqueira M, Soons MB, Poggi D, Horn HS, Levin SA (2005) Mechanistic analytical models for long-distance seed dispersal by wind. Am Nat 166:368–381PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kirmer A, Tischew S, Ozinga WA, von Lampe M, Baasch A, van Groenendael JM (2008) Importance of regional species pool and functional traits in colonization processes: predicting re-colonization after large-scale destruction of ecosystems. J Appl Ecol 45:1523–1530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lahoreau G, Barot S, Gignoux J, Hoffmann WA, Setterfield SA, Williams PR (2006) Positive effect of seed size on seedling survival in fire-prone savannas of Australia, Brazil and West Africa. J Trop Ecol 22:719–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Laughlin DC (2014) The intrinsic dimensionality of plant traits and its relevance to community assembly. J Ecol 102:186–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lenz J, Fiedler W, Caprano T, Friedrichs W, Gaese BH, Wikelski M, Boehning-Gaese K (2011) Seed-dispersal distributions by trumpeter hornbills in fragmented landscapes. Proc R Soc B 278:2257–2264PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levey DJ, Bolker BM, Tewksbury JJ, Sargent S, Haddad NM (2005) Effects of landscape corridors on seed dispersal by birds. Science 309:146–148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Moles AT, Ackerly DD, Webb CO, Tweddle JC, Dickie JB, Pitman AJ, Westoby M (2005) Factors that shape seed mass evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102:10540–10544PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore JE, Swihart RK (2007) Importance of fragmentation-tolerant species as seed dispersers in disturbed landscapes. Oecologia 151:663–674PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morales JM, Carlo TA (2006) The effects of plant distribution and frugivore density on the scale and shape of dispersal kernels. Ecology 87:1489–1496PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Muller-Landau HC, Wright SJ, Calderon O, Condit R, Hubbell SP (2008) Interspecific variation in primary seed dispersal in a tropical forest. J Ecol 96:653–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nakazawa N (2013) fmsb: Functions for medical statistics book with some demographic data. R package version 0.3.8Google Scholar
  34. Nathan R (2006) Long-distance dispersal of plants. Science 313:786–788PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nathan R, Schurr FM, Spiegel O, Steinitz O, Trakhtenbrot A, Tsoar A (2008) Mechanisms of long-distance seed dispersal. Trends Ecol Evol 23:638–647PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nathan R, Horvitz N, He Y, Kuparinen A, Schurr FM, Katul GG (2011) Spread of North American wind-dispersed trees in future environments. Ecol Lett 14:211–219PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Neilson RP, Pitelka LF, Solomon AM, Nathan R, Midley GF, Fragoso JMV, Lischke H, Thompson K (2005) Forecasting regional to global plant migration in response to climate change. BioScience 55:749–759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ozinga WA, Hennekens SM, Schaminée JHJ, Bekker RM, Prinzing A, Bonn S, Poschlod P, Tackenberg O, Thompson K, Bakker JP, van Groenendael JM (2005) Assessing the relative importance of dispersal in plant communities using an ecoinformatics approach. Folia Geobot 40:53–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. PAG2 (2005) Plan d’aménagement participatif et de gestion 2004–2013. Parc National de la Pendjari, BéninGoogle Scholar
  40. R Development Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  41. Ripley B, Venables B, Hornik K, Gebhardt A, Fith D (2013) Package MASS: support functions and datasets for Venables and Ripley’s MASS. R package version 7.3-26Google Scholar
  42. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (2008) Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1. Accessed 19 May 2012
  43. Schupp EW, Jordano P, Gómez JM (2010) Seed dispersal effectiveness revisited: a conceptual review. New Phytol 188:333–353PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schurr FM, Bond WJ, Midgley GF, Higgins SI (2005) A mechanistic model for secondary seed dispersal by wind and its experimental validation. J Ecol 93:1017–1028CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schurr FM, Steinitz O, Nathan R (2008) Plant fecundity and seed dispersal in spatially heterogeneous environments: models, mechanisms and estimation. J Ecol 96:628–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sheffer E, Canham CD, Kigel J, Perevolotsky A (2013) Landscape-scale density-dependent recruitment of oaks in planted forests: more is not always better. Ecology 94:1718–1728PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sokpon N, Affoukou M, Amahowe I, Gandji L, Gnonlonfin L, Sossou B (2008) Dynamique spatio - temporelle des formations végétales du Complexe Parc National de la Pendjari, zones cynégétiques de la Pendjari et de l’Atacora. Laboratoire d’études et de recherches forestières, FA/UP/République du BéninGoogle Scholar
  48. Spiegel O, Nathan R (2012) Empirical evaluation of directed dispersal and density-dependent effects across successive recruitment phases. J Ecol 100:392–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tackenberg O (2003) Modelling long distance dispersal of plant diaspores by wind. Ecol Monogr 73:173–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thomson FJ, Moles AT, Auld TD, Ramp D, Ren S, Kingsford RT (2010) Chassing the unknown: predicting seed dispersal mechanisms from plant traits. J Ecol 98:1310–1318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Thomson FJ, Moles AT, Auld TD, Kingsford RT (2011) Seed dispersal distance is more strongly correlated with plant height than with seed mass. J Ecol 99:1299–1307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tsoar A, Shohami D, Nathan R (2011) A movement ecology approach to study seed dispersal and plant invasion: an overview and application of seed dispersal by fruit bats. In: Richardson DM (ed) Fifty years of invasion ecology: The legacy of Charles Elton. Wiley, Oxford, pp 101–119Google Scholar
  53. Uriarte M, Anciaes M, da Silva MTB, Rubim P, Johnson E, Bruna EM (2011) Disentangling the drivers of reduced long-distance seed dispersal by birds in an experimentally fragmented landscape. Ecology 92:924–937PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ver Hoef JM, Boveng PL (2007) Quasi-Poisson vs. negative binomial regression: how should we model overdispersed count data? Ecology 88:2766–2772PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wenny DG (2001) Advantages of seed dispersal: a re-evaluation of directed dispersal. Evol Ecol Res 3:51–74Google Scholar
  56. Westoby M, Rice B, Howell J (1990) Seed size and plant-growth form as factors in dispersal spectra. Ecology 71:1307–1315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Westoby M, Leishman M, Lord J (1995) Further remarks on phylogenetic correction. J Ecol 83:727–729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Westoby M, Leishman M, Lord J (1996) Comparative ecology of seed size and dispersal. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B 351:1309–1318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Will H, Maussner S, Tackenberg O (2007) Experimental studies of diaspore attachment to animal coats: predicting epizoochorous dispersal potential. Oecologia 153:331–339PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wilson JB (2011) The twelve theories of co-existence in plant communities: the doubtful, the important and the unexplored. J Veg Sci 22:184–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wright SJ, Muller-Landau HC, Calderon O, Hernandez A (2005) Annual and spatial variation in seedfall and seedling recruitment in a Neotropical forest. Ecology 86:848–860CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zobel M (1997) The relative role of species pools in determining plant species richness: an alternative explanation of species coexistence. Trends Ecol Evol 1:266–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akomian Fortuné Azihou
    • 1
  • Romain Glèlè Kakaï
    • 1
  • Brice Sinsin
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Applied Ecology, Faculty of Agronomic SciencesUniversity of Abomey-Calavi (UAC)CotonouBenin

Personalised recommendations