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A seed survival story: How trees keep ‘friends’ close and ‘enemies’ guessing

A seed survival story

Topic: A seed survival story: How trees keep ‘friends’ close and ‘enemies’ guessing

A new study that included millions of tree-year observations worldwide for the first time documents and analyzes the intricate balance between seed defense and dispersal by forest trees at a global scale. Around the globe, forests are facing unprecedented challenges. They’re grappling with wildfires, diseases, droughts and deforestation. The survival of these great forests hinges on their ability to regrow — and for many trees, a process called “masting” is key to this regeneration. Masting — the unpredictable boom-and-bust cycle of seed production — can have profound consequences for plant populations and the food webs that are built on their seeds. But the complex relationship between seed-production cycles and seed consumers and dispersers has been poorly understood. A new study by an international team of scientists that included millions of tree-year observations worldwide, published today (July 29) in Nature Plants, for the first time documents and analyzes the intricate balance between seed defense and dispersal by forest trees at a global scale. Seeds, fruits and nuts — high in carbohydrate, fat and protein content — are among the highest quality plant foods in nature, noted the study’s lead author Tong Qiu, assistant professor in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. When there are a lot of seeds, seed consumers such as birds, squirrels and insects have a feast. Their populations grow because there is plenty of food for them to eat and feed their offspring. But in the years following a mast, when seed production is low, these animals might struggle to find enough food, and this could lead to a drop in their populations.

Original Article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/06/230629125706.htm

Topic Discussed: Topic: A seed survival story: How trees keep ‘friends’ close and ‘enemies’ guessing

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