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How A Plant Disperses Seeds Impacts Its Future Growth, Study Shows

A puffy white dandelion head disintegrates in the wind in front of a blue sky.

According to the new research from Utah State University, how a plant disperses its seeds is related to other life history strategies. 

Seed dispersal is the movement or transportation of seeds away from the parent plant.

"Seed dispersal is the only stage in a plant’s life history where the plant can move and it determines where a plant will be for the rest of its life," said Noelle Beckman, an assistant professor in biology at Utah State University.

Beckman and her collaborators recently published new research incorporating how plants disperse their seeds with plant life history strategies that describe their growth and reproduction.

"What we found is that plants that tend to disperse their seeds further are related to these fast life history strategies and that this tends to be across different plant species and not related to how they are taxonomically related," Beckman said. 

Using a publically available plant database, Beckman and her collaborators compared seed dispersal techniques and life history traits of over 700 plant species.

"So by incorporating all these many different types of plant species we can get an understanding of how these different strategies relate to each other that we wouldn’t be able to do just looking at one or a few plant species."

Seed dispersal is a critical part of maintaining plant diversity.

"Because seed dispersal determines where the plants end up that effects who the interacting partners are such as specialized plant diseases or insects that eat the seeds and can influence maintaining diversity through these other processes," Beckman said.  

Despite its importance, seed dispersal is an understudied area of ecology.   

Access to Beckman's reccent article in the Journal of Ecology can be found here