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Wind dispersal in freshwater wetlands: Knowledge for conservation and restoration

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Questions: For wetland plants, dispersal by wind is often overlooked because dispersal by water is generally assumed to be the key dispersal process. This literature review addresses the role of seed dispersal by wind in wetlands. Why is wind dispersal relevant in wetlands? Which seeds are dispersed by wind and how far? And how can our understanding of wind dispersal be applied to wetland conservation and restoration?

Methods: Literature review.

Results and conclusions: Wind is a widely available seed dispersal vector in wetlands and can transport many seeds over long distances. Unlike water, wind can transport seeds in all directions and is therefore important for dispersal to upstream wetlands and to wetlands not connected by surface water flows. Wind dispersal transports seeds to a wider range of sites than water, and therefore reaches more sites but with lower seed densities.

Many wetland plant species have adaptations to facilitate wind dispersal. Dispersal distances increase with decreasing falling velocity of seeds, increasing seed release height and selective release mechanisms. Depending on the adaptations, seeds may be dispersed by wind over many km or only a few m. The frequency of long-distance wind dispersal events depends on these adaptations, the number of produced seeds, the structure of the surrounding vegetation, and the frequency of occurrence of suitable weather conditions.

Humans reduce the frequency of successful long-distance wind dispersal events in wetlands through wetland loss and fragmentation (which reduce the number and quality of seeds) and eutrophication (which changes the structure of the vegetation so that seed release into the wind flow becomes more difficult). This is yet another reason to focus on wetland conservation and restoration measures at increased population sizes, prevention of eutrophication, and the restoration of sites at short distances from seed sources.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2006

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