Similarity between seed rain and neighbouring mature tree communities in an old-growth temperate forest

Seed distribution and deposition patterns around parent trees are strongly affected by functional traits and therefore influence the development of plant communities. To assess the limitations of seed dispersal and the extent to which diaspore and neighbouring parental traits explain seed rain, we used a 9-year seed data set based on 150 seed traps in a 25-ha area of a temperate forest in the Changbai Mountain. Among 480,598 seeds belonging to 12 families, 17 genera, and 26 species were identified, only 54% of the species with mature trees in the community were represented in seeds collected over the 9 years, indicating a limitation in seed dispersal. Understory species were most limited; overstory species were least limited. Species with wind-dispersed seed had the least limitation, while the lowest similarity in species richness was for animal-dispersed species followed by gravity-dispersed species; fleshy-fruited species had stronger dispersal limitations than dry-fruited species. Generalized linear mixed models showed that relative basal area had a significant positive effect on seed abundance in traps, while the contribution of diaspore traits was low for nearly all groups. These results suggest that tree traits had the strongest contribution to seed dispersal and deposition for all functional groups examined here. These findings strengthen the knowledge that tree traits are key in explaining seed deposition patterns, at least at the primary dispersal stage. This improved knowledge of sources of seeds that are dispersed could facilitate greater understanding of seedling and community dynamics in temperate forests.

Yunyun Wang, Jalene M. LaMontagne, Fei Lin, Zuoqiang Yuan, Ji Ye, Xugao Wang, & Zhanqing Hao
Journal of Forestry Research