Seed Dispersal Distances and Plant Migration Potential in Tropical East Asia



Most predictions of vegetation responses to anthropogenic climate change over the next 100 yr are based on plant physiological tolerances and do not account for the ability of plant species to migrate over the distances required in the time available, or the impact of habitat fragmentation on this ability. This review assesses the maximum routine dispersal distances achievable in tropical East Asia and their vulnerability to human impacts. Estimates for various plant–vector combinations range from < 10 m, for species dispersed by ants or mechanical means, to > 10 km for some species dispersed by wind (tiny seeds), water, fruit pigeons, large fruit bats (tiny seeds), elephants, rhinoceroses, and people. Most plant species probably have maximum dispersal distances in the 100–1000 m range, but the widespread, canopy-dominant Dipterocarpaceae and Fagaceae are normally dispersed < 100 m. Large fruit bats and fruit pigeons are particularly important for long-distance dispersal in fragmented landscapes and should be protected from hunting. The maximum seed dispersal distances estimated in this study are potentially sufficient for many plant species to track temperature changes in steep topography, but are far too small for a significant role in mitigating climate change impacts in the lowlands, where temperature and rainfall gradients are much more shallow.