A simple standardized protocol to evaluate the reliability of seed rain estimates

André J. Arruda, Fernando A.O. Silveira, Elise Buisson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Seed dispersal has key implications for community dynamics and restoration ecology. However, estimating seed rain (the number and diversity of seeds arriving in a given area) is challenging, and the lack of standardization in measurement prevents cross-site comparisons. Seed trap effectiveness and accuracy of seed sorting methods are key components of seed rain estimates in need of standardization. We propose and describe a standardized protocol for evaluating the effectiveness of two seed trap types (sticky and funnel traps) and the accuracy of a seed sorting method. We used widely available seeds (arugula, quinoa, sesame and sunflower) to produce a gradient of seed size, weight and colour. Proof-of-concept was tested in a tropical grassland, where traps were set for 30 days. Our results suggest that we underestimate dispersal of seeds with less than 2 mm width that can be easily mistaken for debris and soil particles or that fail to adhere to sticky traps. Seeds on sticky traps may be more vulnerable to removal by wind and rain, whereas seeds in funnel traps are more susceptible to decay. We found no evidence of observer bias on seed sorting for funnel trap samples. However, accuracy on seed sorting for funnel trap samples tended to decline for seeds with less than 2 mm width, suggesting a size-dependence in seed retrieval success. Our standardized protocol addressing trap effectiveness and seed sorting methods will increase the reliability of data obtained in seed rain studies and allow more reliable comparisons between datasets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-309
Number of pages6
JournalSeed Science Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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