Mechanistic analytical models for long-distance seed dispersal by wind

G. G. Katul*, A. Porporato, R. Nathan, M. Siqueira, M. B. Soons, D. Poggi, H. S. Horn, S. A. Levin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations


We introduce an analytical model, the Wald analytical long-distance dispersal (WALD) model, for estimating dispersal kernels of wind-dispersed seeds and their escape probability from the canopy. The model is based on simplifications to well-established three-dimensional Lagrangian stochastic approaches for turbulent scalar transport resulting in a two-parameter Wald (or inverse Gaussian) distribution. Unlike commonly used phenomenological models, WALD's parameters can be estimated from the key factors affecting wind dispersal - wind statistics, seed release height, and seed terminal velocity - determined independently of dispersal data. WALD's asymptotic power-law tail has an exponent of -3/2, a limiting value verified by a meta-analysis for a wide variety of measured dispersal kernels and larger than the exponent of the bivariate Student t-test (2Dt). We tested WALD using three dispersal data sets on forest trees, heathland shrubs, and grassland forbs and compared WALD's performance with that of other analytical mechanistic models (revised versions of the tilted Gaussian Plume model and the advection-diffusion equation), revealing fairest agreement between WALD predictions and measurements. Analytical mechanistic models, such as WALD, combine the advantages of simplicity and mechanistic understanding and are valuable tools for modeling large-scale, long-term plant population dynamics.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)368-381
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Analytical model
  • Canopy turbulence
  • Long-distance seed dispersal
  • Mechanistic dispersal models
  • Wald distribution
  • Wind dispersal


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