The effects of plant distribution and frugivore density on the scale and shape of dispersal kernels

Juan Manuel Morales, Tomás A. Carlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


For many plant species, seed dispersal is one of the most important spatial demographic processes. We used a diffusion approximation and a spatially explicit simulation model to explore the mechanisms generating seed dispersal kernels for plants dispersed by frugivores. The simulation model combined simple movement and foraging rules with seed gut passage time, plant distribution, and fruit production. A simulation experiment using plant spatial aggregation and frugivore density as factors showed that seed dispersal scale was largely determined by the degree of plant aggregation, whereas kernel shape was mostly dominated by frugivore density. Kernel shapes ranged from fat tailed to thin tailed, but most shapes were between an exponential and that of the solution of a diffusion equation. The proportion of dispersal kernels with fat tails was highest for landscapes with clumped plant distributions and increased with increasing number of dispersers. The diffusion model provides a basis for models including more behavioral details but can also be used to approximate dispersal kernels once a diffusion rate is estimated from animal movement data. Our results suggest that important characteristics of dispersal kernels will depend on the spatial pattern of plant distribution and on disperser density when frugivores mediate seed dispersal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1489-1496
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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