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A novel trap for quantifying the dispersal of seeds by wind



Question: Understanding the aerial movement of seed is of great significance to the management of native and invasive plant species, but has proven difficult to measure. Here we examine how a more quantitative approach to measuring the aerial movement of seed can be achieved.

Location: SE Australia.

Methods: We describe a novel seed trap (the ‘Melbourne trap’), for which the proportion of free-stream airflow through the trap can be measured, allowing a more quantitative approach to measuring aerial seed movement. We assessed airflow through the Melbourne trap in a wind tunnel and describe how this information, along with measurements of wind speed and direction, can now be used to derive seed density per volume of airflow. We compare the seed capture and retention efficiency of the Melbourne trap with two simpler and cheaper trap designs, bucket traps and sticky traps.

Results: Melbourne and bucket traps captured significantly more species than sticky traps. Seed catch was dominated numerically by Lachnagrostis filiformis (G. Forst.) Trin. Melbourne traps proved more effective than sticky traps, but not bucket traps, in capturing L. filiformis, based on intake area. For all other seeds, Melbourne traps were more effective than both bucket and sticky traps.

Conclusion: The Melbourne trap design is a significant advance in quantifying seed dispersal by wind. Melbourne traps will improve the capacity and accuracy of studies that seek to: (i) quantify seed fluxes across landscapes boundaries; (ii) assess directionality of dispersal; (iii) understand processes controlling seed release; and (iv) compare dispersal in wind and water.