Every tree species has evolved to spread its seeds in a particular way. Some seeds, like those in scaly pinecones or fuzzy catkins, float on wind currents. Others, such as beechnuts and oak acorns, are carried, eaten, and deposited far and wide by animals. A new study of Spanish forests explores how different seed dispersal strategies help—or hinder—trees regrowing after forest loss.
The research, which was led by ecologist Daniel Montoya Terán at Madrid's Universidad de Alcalá, found that animal-dispersed tree species were able to regenerate more easily after deforestation, when seed abundances decline. Animal-dispersed seeds are spread in a more targeted fashion than wind-scattered seeds. They also tend to be bigger, with more nutritional material to kick-start germination in deforested landscapes.
The study underscores the importance of conserving both trees and the animal species upon which they depend for survival.