Journal of Ecology
, 1011–1022doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2007.01341.x
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 British Ecological Society
A mechanistic simulation model of seed dispersal byanimals
Heidrun Will* and Oliver Tackenberg
Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, University of Frankfurt, D-60323 Frankfurt (Main), Germany
In order to investigate seed dispersal by animals on a landscape scale, we developed the spatiallyexplicit, individual-based mechanistic model SEED (Simulation of Epi- and Endozoochorous SeedDispersal). The purpose of the model is to predict patterns and densities of seeds dispersed byanimals (especially mammals) within a simulated landscape.
The model was parameterized for sheep, cattle and deer as vectors but may be applied to otheranimals if data for parameterization is available. The model data base currently includes parametervalues for about 100 plant species.
Seed attachment to and seed detachment from the fur, as well as seed excretion after passagethrough the gut, are explicitly simulated by drawing randomly from distributions that were deter-mined by standardized experiments. Animal movement is simulated as a correlated random walk,but to increase reality of the model, radio-tracking data of animals can also be used.
A sensitivity analysis of SEED was conducted to identify the relative importance of plant andanimal traits. The analysis highlighted where the main gaps in our knowledge of seed dispersal pro-cesses lie. Even though in our study endozoochorous dispersal had the higher potential for long-distance dispersal compared to epizoochory, there is only scarce knowledge about seed productionand especially about the proportion of seeds eaten by an animal, parameters which were shown tobe of major importance for dispersal.
A comparison of variation in plant and animal traits, respectively, showed that dispersal kernelsdepend more on changes in the animal vector than on the comparably little variation a particularplant species can exhibit. For this reason, animal movement is, from all the dispersal-relevantparameters, the one for which more exact data is most urgently needed.
The newly developed simulation model will help to understand, quantify and predictlong-distance seed dispersal by animals. The possibility to incorporate real landscapes andmovement data from very different animals makes the model generalizable and possibly applicableto a wide range of scientiﬁc and applied questions.
animal dispersal, animal movement, long-distance dispersal, mammals, mechanisticmodel, plant traits, plant–animal interactions, seed dispersal, seed shadow, zoochory
Seed dispersal is a key process in ecology, determining,among other things, colonization, local and meta-populationdynamics, and the spatial structure of plant communities(Nathan & Muller-Landau 2000). Long-distance dispersalevents, although typically rare, are especially crucial topopulation spread, to the maintenance of genetic connectivity,and hence to the regional survival of plant species (Cain
.2000).Against the background of changing land use, alien speciesintroduction and, in particular, climate change, it is extremelyimportant to better understand dispersal processes at differentspatial scales. Accurate measures of seed dispersal are essentialto assess its importance for different plant species and theirresponse to environmental changes. Yet, long-distance dis-persal is extremely difﬁcult to quantify empirically. Dispersalmodels have long been used to quantify dispersal processes(Levin
. 1984). Classical diffusion models, however,generally underestimated long-distance dispersal events, aswas shown by historical records and molecular analyses (Cain
. 1998; Godoy & Jordano 2001). Mixed dispersal models
*Correspondence author. E-mail: email@example.com