Mechanisms of seed mass variation along resource gradients

Niv DeMalach*, Ronen Ron, Ronen Kadmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The enormous variation in seed mass along gradients of soil resources has fascinated plant ecologists for decades. However, so far, this research has focused on the description of such variation, rather than its underlying mechanisms. Here we experimentally test a recent model relating such variation to two fundamental properties of plant growth: allometry of biomass growth and size-asymmetry of light competition. According to the model, mean seed mass should increase, and the variance of seed mass should show a unimodal response, to increasing soil resource availability (productivity). We test these predictions and their underlying assumptions using a combination of field observations, mesocosm experiments and greenhouse experiments focusing on Mediterranean annual plants. Our results support the predictions and assumptions of the model, and allow us to reject alternative models of seed mass variation. We conclude that growth-allometry and size-asymmetric light competition are key drivers of seed-mass variation along soil resource gradients.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)181-189
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS


  • Annual plants
  • community-weighted mean
  • community-weighted variance
  • competition-colonisation trade-off
  • functional diversity
  • functional traits
  • grassland
  • productivity
  • seed size
  • soil depth


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