Seed distribution constrains the dynamics of the patagonian steppe

Martín R. Aguiar, Osvaldo E. Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


The Patagonian steppe is formed by tussock grasses and shrubs in a bare-soil matrix (50% cover), and as in other arid and semiarid systems, vegetation is arranged in patches. Although there is a good understanding of the probabilities of seedling establishment of Bromus pictus in relation to location within these patches, these probabilities account for only a portion of the spatial dynamics of the community. The objective of this paper was to assess the pattern and dynamics of Bromus pictus seed availability in this community, which represent the other portion of the recruitment equation. We first evaluated its seed bank along transects. Plant- or litter-covered areas had 85% of the sampled seeds; however, they accounted for 55% of the area. Bare-soil areas had seeds only if they were located close (≤10 cm) to a plant or litter microsite. In a second study, we analyzed the movement of seeds using pitfall traps. Traps located near plants captured seed amounts similar to those from traps located in bare-ground areas (far from plants). The contrast between the high number of seeds in transit and the low number of seeds retained by bare-ground microsites illustrates the importance of lateral secondary movement of seeds. We used this information on seed distribution and previous data about establishment probabilities to estimate the spatial pattern of recruitment. Microsites that are vegetated or close to individual plants are expected to recruit the greatest number of individuals. Vegetation patches play an important role in modifying ecological processes in arid and semiarid communities. Our results highlight the importance of seed distribution in the formation and maintenance of these patches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-100
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Bromus pictus
  • Microsites
  • Patagonia
  • Plant-seed distributions
  • Plant-seedling distribution
  • Secondary dispersal
  • Seed dispersal
  • Seed dynamics
  • Steppe vegetation
  • Wind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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