Growing recognition of the importance of long-distance dispersal (LDD) of plant seeds for various ecological and evolutionary processes has led to an upsurge of research into the mechanisms underlying LDD. We summarize these findings by formulating six generalizations stating that LDD is generally more common in open terrestrial landscapes, and is typically driven by large and migratory animals, extreme meteorological phenomena, ocean currents and human transportation, each transporting a variety of seed morphologies. LDD is often associated with unusual behavior of the standard vector inferred from plant dispersal morphology, or mediated by nonstandard vectors. To advance our understanding of LDD, we advocate a vector-based research approach that identifies the significant LDD vectors and quantifies how environmental conditions modify their actions.
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We are grateful to Nechama Ben-Elihau, Jordi Figuerola, Daniel García, Arndt Hampe, Anna Kuparinen, Wim Ozinga, Ophelie Ronce, Sabrina Russo, Louis Santamaría, Steve Wagstaff and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier draft. We acknowledge support from the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF 474/02 and ISF-FIRST 1316/05), the International Arid Land Consortium (IALC 03R/25), the Israeli Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, the US National Science Foundation (IBN-9981620 and DEB-0453665), the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the framework of Biota Southern Africa (FKZ 54419938), the European Union through Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Project FEMMES (MTKD-CT 2006-042261), the Minerva short-term fellowship program, the Simon and Ethel Flegg Fellowship and the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award of the Humboldt Foundation.