To track current rates of climate change, plants need to disperse their seeds towards cooler latitudes at long distances, across tens of kilometres. These distances are far beyond the standard seed-dispersal events. Juan P. González-Varo and colleagues examine whether migratory birds can help. For this to happen, the plant fruiting period needs to coincide with the migration of birds to the north. Studying seed-dispersal networks comprising 46 bird species and 81 fleshy-fruited plant species in woodland communities across Europe, and data on the fruiting period of the plants and migratory patterns of the birds, they find that most plants (86%) across communities are dispersed by birds migrating south, and only 35% are dispersed by birds migrating north, towards cooler latitudes. The latter plants have long or late fruiting periods that overlap with the northward spring migration. A small number of bird species are responsible for the majority of the northward movement.
Recent Hot Topics
Sign up for Nature Research e-alerts to get the lastest research in your inbox every week.