The conservation physiology of seed dispersal

Graeme D. Ruxton, H. Martin Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


At a time when plant species are experiencing increasing challenges from climate change, land-use change, harvesting and invasive species, dispersal has become a very important aspect of plant conservation. Seed dispersal by animals is particularly important because some animals disperse seeds to suitable sites in a directed fashion. Our review has two aims: (i) to highlight the various ways plant dispersal by animals can be affected by current anthropogenic change and (ii) to show the important role of plant and (particularly) animal physiology in shaping seed-dispersal interactions. We argue that large-bodied seed dispersers may be particularly important for plant conservation because seed dispersal of large-seeded plants is often more specialized and because large-bodied animals are targeted by human exploitation and have smaller population sizes. We further argue that more specialized seed-dispersal systems on island ecosystems might be particularly at risk from climate change both owing to small population sizes involved but also owing to the likely thermal specialization, particularly on tropical islands. More generally, the inherent vulnerability of seed-dispersal mutualisms to disruption driven by environmental change (as well as their ubiquity) demands that we continue to improve our understanding of their conservation physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1708-1718
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1596
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2012


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