Long-distance dispersal of tree seeds by wind

Henry S. Horn*, Ran Nathan, Sarah R. Kaplan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Some mechanisms that promote long-distance dispersal of tree seeds by wind are explored. Winged seeds must be lifted above the canopy by updrafts to have a chance of further dispersal in high velocity horizontal winds aloft or in landscape-scale convection cells. Shear-induced turbulent eddies of a scale up to one-third of canopy height provide a lifting mechanism. Preliminary data suggest that all seeds of a given species may be viable candidates for uplift and long-distance dispersal, despite the evidence that slow-falling seeds are dispersed farther under any given wind conditions. Turbulence is argued more often and more extensively to advance long-distance dispersal than to retard it. Seeds may take advantage of 'Bernoulli sailing' to move with faster than average winds. Elasticity of branches and trees may play a role in regulating the release of seeds into unusually favorable winds. Dispersal is at least biphasic, and the study of long-distance dispersal calls for mixed models and mixed methods of gathering data.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)877-885
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for extensive discussions with Prof. S. A. Levin, Prof. S. W. Pacala, Prof. G. G. Katul, Prof. R. Avissar, and Dr H. C. Muller-Landau. Prof. D. F. Greene gave extensive and constructive criticism of the manuscript; Ms K. S. Yamasato gathered some preliminary data to help calibrate our machinery; and Mr R. Phillips of the Princeton University Buildings and Grounds Department helped us to collect seeds directly from high in a tree. The work was supported by National Science Foundation Grant IBN-9981620.


  • Bernoulli
  • Model
  • Samara
  • Turbulence
  • Updraft


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