Do large-seeded herbs have a small range size? The seed mass–distribution range trade-off hypothesis

Judit Sonkoly, Balázs Deák, Orsolya Valkó, Attila Molnár V., Béla Tóthmérész, Péter Török

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


We aimed to introduce and test the “seed mass–distribution range trade-off” hypothesis, that is, that range size is negatively related to seed mass due to the generally better dispersal ability of smaller seeds. Studying the effects of environmental factors on the seed mass and range size of species, we also aimed to identify habitats where species may be at risk and need extra conservation effort to avoid local extinctions. We collected data for seed mass, global range size, and indicators for environmental factors of the habitat for 1,600 species of the Pannonian Ecoregion (Central Europe) from the literature. We tested the relationship between species’ seed mass, range size, and indicator values for soil moisture, light intensity, and nutrient supply. We found that seed mass is negatively correlated with range size; thus, a seed mass–distribution range trade-off was validated based on the studied large species pool. We found increasing seed mass with decreasing light intensity and increasing nutrient availability, but decreasing seed mass with increasing soil moisture. Range size increased with increasing soil moisture and nutrient supply, but decreased with increasing light intensity. Our results supported the hypothesis that there is a trade-off between seed mass and distribution range. We found that species of habitats characterized by low soil moisture and nutrient values but high light intensity values have small range size. This emphasizes that species of dry, infertile habitats, such as dry grasslands, could be more vulnerable to habitat fragmentation or degradation than species of wet and fertile habitats. The remarkably high number of species and the use of global distribution range in our study support our understanding of global biogeographic processes and patterns that are essential in defining conservation priorities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11204-11212
Number of pages9
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • distribution area
  • light intensity
  • seed size
  • seed weight
  • soil fertility
  • soil moisture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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