Effects of experimental snowmelt and rain on dispersal of six plant species

J. M. Sarneel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Water flows affect dispersal of propagules of many plant species, and rivers and streams are therefore very important dispersal vectors. However, small water flows such as trough rain and snowmelt are much more common, but their effects on dispersal are barely studied. The importance of this form of dispersal deserves attention, especially when considering that climate change is predicted to change the amounts of rain and snow worldwide. Dispersal through melting snow and rain was addressed experimentally, using artificial soils mounted on slopes with different angles and subjected to a melting snow pack or an equivalent amount of dripping water. Seeds on the soil moved on average 3·02 cm (±1·81 SE) in rain treatments and 0·23 cm (±0·3 SE) in snowmelt treatments. Tracking plastic granules in field conditions further showed that snowmelt exhibited minimal dispersal capacity. Dispersal distances by rain were enhanced by increasing slope angles and with decreasing seed volume. Given that many species in cold environments have small seeds, dispersal by rain could provide an important (secondary) dispersal mechanism in these habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1464-1470
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • boreal ecosystems
  • bythisochory
  • climate change
  • dispersal vector
  • erosion
  • hydrochory
  • rain
  • snow


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