Background

The ecology of seed dispersal is a topic of much interest to naturalists, although it has not been until the last three decades that it has received considerable attention by scientists. Seed dispersal is one of the key phases in the process of plant regeneration, as it determines the potential area of recruitment at the same time that acts as a template for the rest of stages in such process. Dispersal can be defined as the process by which individuals move from the immediate environment of their parents to establish in an area more or less distant from them. In contrast to animal dispersal, plant dispersal is always passive in the sense that seeds have no control of where they will end up; moreover, seed dispersal is more determined by the traits of the maternal parent than by the traits of the seeds themselves. Two widely used terms in the study of seed dispersal are 'seed shadow' and 'seed rain', both referring to the spatial distribution of dispersed seeds either around a parent plant (shadow) or around multiple parents, within a population perspective (rain). The seed shadow is usually used to assess evolutionary aspects of seed dispersal whereas seed rain is more employed in the demographical perspective of seed dispersal. Both perspectives, the individual and the population, are needed if we are to understand the shaping of the spatial seed distribution and, ultimately, the spatial dynamics of recruitment.

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