Linking seed size and number to trait syndromes in trees

Michal Bogdziewicz, Marie Claire Aravena Acuña, Robert Andrus, Davide Ascoli, Yves Bergeron, Daniel Brveiller, Thomas Boivin, Raul Bonal, Thomas Caignard, Maxime Cailleret, Rafael Calama, Sergio Donoso Calderon, J. Julio Camarero, Chia Hao Chang-Yang, Jerome Chave, Francesco Chianucci, Natalie L. Cleavitt, Benoit Courbaud, Andrea Cutini, Thomas CurtAdrian J Das, Hendrik Davi, Nicolas Delpierre, Sylvain Delzon, Michael Dietze, Laurent Dormont, William Farfan-Rios, Catherine A. Gehring, Gregory S. Gilbert, Georg Gratzer, Cathryn H. Greenberg, Arthur Guignabert, Qinfeng Guo, Andrew Hacket-Pain, Arndt Hampe, Qingmin Han, Kazuhiko Hoshizaki, Ines Ibanez, Jill F. Johnstone, Valentin Journé, Thomas Kitzberger, Johannes M.H. Knops, Georges Kunstler, Richard Kobe, Jonathan G.A. Lageard, Jalene M. LaMontagne, Mateusz Ledwon, Theodor Leininger, Jean Marc Limousin, James A. Lutz, Diana Macias, Anders Marell, Eliot J.B. McIntire, Emily Moran, Renzo Motta, Jonathan A Myers, Thomas A. Nagel, Shoji Naoe, Mahoko Noguchi, Michio Oguro, Hiroko Kurokawa, Jean Marc Ourcival, Robert Parmenter, Ignacio M. Perez-Ramos, Lukasz Piechnik, Tomasz Podgórski, John Poulsen, Tong Qiu, Miranda D. Redmond, Chantal D. Reid, Kyle C. Rodman, Pavel Šamonil, Jan Holik, C. Lane Scher, Harald Schmidt Van Marle, Barbara Seget, Mitsue Shibata, Shubhi Sharma, Miles Silman, Michael A. Steele, Jacob N. Straub, I. Fang Sun, Samantha Sutton, Jennifer J Swenson, Peter A. Thomas, Maria Uriarte, Giorgio Vacchiano, Thomas T. Veblen, Boyd Wright, S. Joseph Wright, Thomas G. Whitham, Kai Zhu, Jess K. Zimmerman, Magdalna Zywiec, James S. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Aim: Our understanding of the mechanisms that maintain forest diversity under changing climate can benefit from knowledge about traits that are closely linked to fitness. We tested whether the link between traits and seed number and seed size is consistent with two hypotheses, termed the leaf economics spectrum and the plant size syndrome, or whether reproduction represents an independent dimension related to a seed size–seed number trade-off. Location: Most of the data come from Europe, North and Central America and East Asia. A minority of the data come from South America, Africa and Australia. Time period: 1960–2022. Major taxa studied: Trees. Methods: We gathered 12 million observations of the number of seeds produced in 784 tree species. We estimated the number of seeds produced by individual trees and scaled it up to the species level. Next, we used principal components analysis and generalized joint attribute modelling (GJAM) to map seed number and size on the tree traits spectrum. Results: Incorporating seed size and number into trait analysis while controlling for environment and phylogeny with GJAM exposes relationships in trees that might otherwise remain hidden. Production of the large total biomass of seeds [product of seed number and seed size; hereafter, species seed productivity (SSP)] is associated with high leaf area, low foliar nitrogen, low specific leaf area (SLA) and dense wood. Production of high seed numbers is associated with small seeds produced by nutrient-demanding species with softwood, small leaves and high SLA. Trait covariation is consistent with opposing strategies: one fast-growing, early successional, with high dispersal, and the other slow-growing, stress-tolerant, that recruit in shaded conditions. Main conclusions: Earth system models currently assume that reproductive allocation is indifferent among plant functional types. Easily measurable seed size is a strong predictor of the seed number and species seed productivity. The connection of SSP with the functional traits can form the first basis of improved fecundity prediction across global forests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-694
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • fecundity
  • functional traits
  • leaf economics
  • life history strategies
  • size syndrome
  • tree recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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