Shipment and storage effects on the terminal velocity of seeds

Katherine M. Marchetto, Eelke Jongejans, Matthew L. Jennis, Emily M. Haner, Caitlin T. Sullivan, Dave Kelly, Katriona Shea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Mechanistic models of seed dispersal by wind include terminal velocity as the main seed characteristic that influences the dispersal process and hence the resulting dispersal kernels and spread rates. Accurate measurement of the terminal velocity of seeds is therefore pivotal. However, compression during shipment through the post or during storage between collection in the field and terminal velocity measurements in the lab may affect these measurements. To evaluate the effects of shipment and storage on terminal velocity measurements, capitula of Carduus nutans, an invasive thistle species from Eurasia, were stored for 1-5 years and subjected to three different packing treatments. Seeds from capitula were then assessed for terminal velocity values, plume area, seed mass, wing loading, number of filaments per pappus, qualitative assessments of pappus damage, and number of intact dispersal units per capitulum. Compression significantly increased seed terminal velocity. However, storage duration for 1-5 years did not cause a significant increase or decrease in any of the response variables. The compression treatment was validated by shipment of seeds from New Zealand to the United States. When capitula that are to be used for terminal velocity measurements are stored or shipped, they should be packaged in incompressible containers to avoid damage to the fragile dispersal structures. Studies using capitula that were originally collected and stored for other purposes, such as transcontinental demographic studies, should rescale observed terminal velocity values to take into account possible damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-92
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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