Floods, drought, and seed mass of riparian plant species

Juliet Stromberg, Jere A. Boudell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Plant communities in dryland riparian ecosystems are influenced by flood disturbance and water availability. As global climate change alters stream flow regimes, there is increasing need to understand which traits allow plant species to persist under increased stress and disturbance. Small seed mass is part of a strategy that adapts for disturbance, but the role of seed mass as an adaptation for drought is less well documented. For dryland riparian plant communities, we asked, does seed mass vary with water availability and flood frequency? We compared community seed mass between sites that vary in flow permanence (longitudinal water gradient) and between hydrogeomorphic surfaces within sites (lateral gradients of moisture and disturbance). Using data from four rivers in Arizona, we contrasted seed mass between plant groups. We found community seed mass to be greater at sites with ephemeral than perennial flow, and to increase laterally from wet, frequently-flooded channel edges to dry, less disturbed terraces. Seed mass varied by moisture group (smallest for hydroriparian species) and by disturbance group (smallest for disturbance species), and showed a trend for being greater in introduced species. We conclude that small seed mass is independently associated with wet and disturbed conditions in dryland riparian ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Arid
  • Disturbance
  • Ephemeral stream
  • Floodplain
  • Plant community
  • Water
  • Wetland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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