Consequences of seed dispersal for plant recruitment in tropical forests: Interactions within the seedscape

Noelle G. Beckman, Utah State University
Haldre S. Rogers, Ricce University


Seed dispersal sets the stage for the suite of biotic and abiotic interactions that determine the fate of individual seeds. In this review, we first focus on how dispersal influences the ‘seedscape’, or the combination of abiotic and biotic factors that affect the probability of recruitment once a seed has reached its final location. We review recent papers that examine the effect of different dispersal vectors on (1) the quality of the habitat in which a seed lands; (2) the distance seeds are dispersed from the parent tree; and (3) the density and composition of plants within the neighborhood of a seed following deposition. Next, we explore methods used to scale these processes up to the level of populations. We highlight demographic models that integrate across multiple life history stages and predict the impact of dispersal in variable environments on population growth. We also review studies that analyze existing spatial patterns of trees within large forest plots and use various strategies to infer the processes that led to those patterns. We continue to scale up from populations to communities, and discuss approaches that have been taken to understand how dispersal may affect diversity and abundance in the community. We then turn to human disturbances and discuss the implications of frugivore defaunation for plant communities. We finish by highlighting several areas of research that are particularly promising for future directions of study.