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The Fate of Seeds in the Soil: a Review of the Influence of Overland Flow on Seed Removal and Its Consequences for the Vegetation of Arid and Semiarid Patchy Ecosystems : Volume 1, Issue 1 (16/10/2014)

By Bochet, E.

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Book Id: WPLBN0004022316
Format Type: PDF Article :
File Size: Pages 37
Reproduction Date: 2015

Title: The Fate of Seeds in the Soil: a Review of the Influence of Overland Flow on Seed Removal and Its Consequences for the Vegetation of Arid and Semiarid Patchy Ecosystems : Volume 1, Issue 1 (16/10/2014)  
Author: Bochet, E.
Volume: Vol. 1, Issue 1
Language: English
Subject: Science, Soil, Discussions
Collections: Periodicals: Journal and Magazine Collection (Contemporary), Copernicus GmbH
Publication Date:
Publisher: Copernicus Gmbh, Göttingen, Germany
Member Page: Copernicus Publications


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Bochet, E. (2014). The Fate of Seeds in the Soil: a Review of the Influence of Overland Flow on Seed Removal and Its Consequences for the Vegetation of Arid and Semiarid Patchy Ecosystems : Volume 1, Issue 1 (16/10/2014). Retrieved from

Description: Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación – CIDE (CSIC, UV, GV), Carretera de Moncada a Náquera km 4.5, 46113 Moncada (Valencia), Spain. Since seeds are the principle means by which plants move across the landscapes, the final fate of seeds plays a fundamental role in the assemblage, functioning and dynamics of plant communities. Once seeds land on the soil surface after being dispersed from the parent plant, they can be moved horizontally by surface runoff. In arid and semiarid patchy ecosystems, where seeds are scattered into a very heterogeneous environment and intense rainfalls occur, the transport of seeds by runoff to new sites may be an opportunity for seeds to reach more favourable sites for seed germination and seedling survival. Although seed transport by runoff may be of vital importance for the recruitment of plants in these ecosystems, it has received little attention in the scientific literature, especially among soil scientists. The main goals are (1) to offer an updated conceptual model of seed fate with a special attention to seed destiny in and on the soil, (2) to review studies on seed fate in overland flow and the ecological implications seed transport by runoff has for the origin, spatial patterning and maintenance of patches and for plant community composition in arid and semiarid patchy ecosystems, and finally (3) to point out directions for future research.

Our review shows that seed fate in overland flow may result either in the export of seeds from the system (seed loss) or in the spatial redistribution of seeds within the system through short-distance seed movements (seed displacement). Seed transport by runoff depends on rainfall, slope and soil characteristics. Seed susceptibility to be removed varies highly between species and is mainly related to seed traits, as seed size, seed shape, presence of appendages, and seed ability to secrete mucilage. Although initially considered as a risk of seed loss, seed removal by runoff has recently been described as an ecological driver that shapes plant composition from the first phases of the plant life, by favouring species with seeds able to resist erosion and by selecting for plant traits that prevent seed loss. Moreover, the interaction of seed transport by overland flow with the high seed trapping capacity of vegetated patches results in a patch-to-patch transport of seeds that plays a relevant role in vegetation establishment and patterning in arid and semiarid patchy ecosystems.

Overall, this review shows how the knowledge about seed fate in overland flow can be used to explain a number of important characteristics of whole plant communities. It also underlines important gaps of knowledge that should be filled in. Future lines of research are proposed in order to broaden our understanding of the origin, maintenance and dynamics of patchiness in arid and semiarid ecosystems and to improve restoration success of intensively eroded ecosystems.

The fate of seeds in the soil: a review of the influence of overland flow on seed removal and its consequences for the vegetation of arid and semiarid patchy ecosystems

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