Increases in air temperature can promote wind-driven dispersal and spread of plants

Anna Kuparinen*, Gabriel Katul, Ran Nathan, Frank M. Schurr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Long-distance dispersal (LDD) of seeds and pollen shapes the spatial dynamics of plant genotypes, populations and communities. Quantifying LDD is thus important for predicting the future dynamics of plants exposed to environmental changes. However, environmental changes can also alter the behaviour of LDD vectors: for instance, increasing air temperature may enhance atmospheric instability, thereby altering the turbulent airflow that transports seed and pollen. Here, we investigate temperature effects on wind dispersal in a boreal forest using a 10-year time series of micrometeorological measurements and a Lagrangian stochastic model for particle transport. For a wide range of dispersal and life history types, we found positive relations between air temperature and LDD. This translates into a largely consistent positive effect of +3°C warming on predicted LDD frequencies and spread rates of plants. Relative increases in LDD frequency tend to be higher for heavy-seeded plants, whereas absolute increases in LDD and spread rates are higher for light-seeded plants for which wind is often an important dispersal vector. While these predicted increases are not sufficient to compensate forecasted range losses and environmental changes can alter plant spread in various ways, our results generally suggest that warming can promote wind-driven movements of plant genotypes and populations in boreal forests.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3081-3087
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1670
StatePublished - 7 Sep 2009


  • Atmospheric instability
  • Boreal forest
  • Global warming
  • Long-distance dispersal
  • Plant spread
  • Seed dispersal


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