Seed limitation and the regulation of community structure in oak savanna grassland

Bryan L. Foster, David Tilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


1. We present results from a long-term sowing experiment conducted in nutrient-poor savanna grassland in eastern Minnesota. We examine the effects of a one-time seed addition of 23 grassland species on plant community dynamics and structure over eight growing seasons. 2. Our goals were to: (i) test the importance of seed availability in regulating plant colonization dynamics and species richness; (ii) assess both the initial effects of sowing on species diversity and community structure and whether these effects increased, persisted or dissipated over the long-term; and (iii) determine the long-term impacts of sown species on the structure and dynamics of the existing community, including effects on species diversity, the abundance of existing (non-sown) species, extinction rate and abundance hierarchy. 3. Sowing led to the successful establishment of several plant species that had not been present in the plots and to increased abundance of other species that were already present. 4. Sowing led to sustained, significant changes in community structure, including increased species richness, increased community evenness, and decreased absolute and relative abundance of non-sown species. Effects of sowing were large and significant 8 years after sowing, revealing the role of seed limitation in these grassland communities. 5. In total, the results suggest that dispersal limitations, species pools and local biotic processes interact to regulate plant community structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1007
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Community structure
  • Diversity
  • Grassland
  • Oak savanna
  • Seed limitation
  • Species coexistence
  • Species richness


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