SEEDS - Closing the seed dispersal loop: How does seed dispersal affect plant population structure at the global, regional and local scales?
Coordinator - Ruben Heleno
Programme - Marie Curie - CIG
Execution dates - 2013-01-01 - 2016-12-31 (48 Months)
Funding Entity - European Union
Total Funding - 100 000 €
Proponent Institution - CFE

Seed-dispersal is an important ecosystem function with important consequences for the dynamics of plant and animal populations. This project will cover four related objectives which will evaluate different aspects of seed dispersal at the global (biogeographic), regional (national) and local (community) scales deepening the current knowledge on seed dispersal and its consequences. Early botanists identified sets of fruit-traits - i.e. dispersal syndromes - which improve the likelihood of propagules attaining seed-dispersal by specific dispersal mechanisms. Such syndromes have been at the centre of several important inferences regarding the long-distance dispersal of seed (LDD) and the colonization of new habitats by plants, although such inferences have been often speculative. By comparing the characteristics of the Azorean and the European floras, I will evaluate which, if any, syndrome has been favoured for the colonization of the Azores islands by plants. Simultaneously I will evaluate for the first time whether dispersal syndromes are a solid base to infer actual seed-dispersal mechanisms and thus colonization vectors for seeds. At a regional scale I will use historical data on plant and bird distributions in the UK and the Netherlands to determine the possible consequences of historical bird declines - and hence seed-dispersal - on plants bearing different dispersal syndromes. Finally I will be applying a complex-network approach at a local scale to evaluate the inter-year variability and estimating the effect of sampling effort on the main descriptors of seed-dispersal networks in a scenario of plant invasions in central Portugal.

Members on this project