Shift of seed mass and fruit type spectra along longitudinal gradient: high water availability and growth allometry

Yu, Shunli; Wang, Guoxun; Katz, Ofir; Li, Danfeng; Wang, Qibing; Yue, Ming; Liu, Canran

Propagule traits vary among biomes along geographical gradients such as longitude, but the mechanisms that underlie these variations remain unclear. This study aims to explore seed mass variation patterns of different biome types along a longitudinal gradient and their underlying variation mechanisms by involving an in-depth analysis on the variation of seed mass, fruit type spectra, growth forms and dispersal mode spectra in Inner Mongolia and northeastern China. Plant community characterization and seed collection were conducted in 26 sites spreading over five vegetation types and covering 622 species belonging to 66 families and 298 genera. We found there are significantly declining trends for mean seed mass, vertebrate-dispersed species richness and fleshy-fruited species richness along a longitudinal gradient from forests to desert grasslands. However, we also found the lowest average seed mass and the smallest proportion of species dispersed by vertebrates occurring at typical grasslands in the five biomes. The variations of average seed mass display high congruence with transition of growth form spectra. The selection for these propagule attributes is driven mainly by climatic factors such as precipitation, temperature, soil moisture and evaporation, as well as by internal biotic factors such as growth forms, canopy coverage and leaf area (Ackerly and Donoghue, 1998). A hypothesis was provided that environmental factors and botanical traits that favor greater water availability lead to emergence (or speciation) of species with large seeds or fleshy fruits with high water content. Due to greater water availability and increasing leaf area, much more photosynthate (photosynthesis production) and allometric growth then ultimately increase the biome average seed mass from west to east. Phylogenetic signal or diversity are not found to be significantly involved in the effect on the patterns. A novel mechanistic framework and mathematical model are provided to expound seed variation among species or biomes.

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Yu, Shunli / Wang, Guoxun / Katz, Ofir / et al: Shift of seed mass and fruit type spectra along longitudinal gradient: high water availability and growth allometry. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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