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Distribution of vascular plant species in woodland patches of Ojcow National Park (southern Poland) in relation to seed dispersal

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Plant diaspore dispersal is a fundamental process affecting the development of forest vegetation and its natural regeneration, especially with regard to typical woodland species, which spread slowly and form short-term soil seed banks. Most of these species have poor seed dispersal mechanisms, which is the major cause of their very slow expansion. The following questions were asked: (i) is there a relationship between the age of a woodland and the presence of forest vascular plant species representing different seed dispersal types; (ii) how do the proportions change between species representing different seed dispersal types in relation to the age of woodland; (iii) what factors determine the presence of species representing a given seed dispersal type; (iv) which factors affect the presence and which ones influence the abundance of selected woodland species? A multiple regression models were developed based on data obtained from 144 woodland patches designated for the study. A probit regression analysis was performed for selected species exhibiting various seed dispersal models. Woodland plants of all seed dispersal types show a significant relationship with the age of woodland, starting from the strongest linkage: anemochores, myrmecochores, endozoochores, epizoochores, barochores, autochores. As the woodland ages, the proportion of forest myrmecochores and anemochores grows, whilst the proportion of autochores, epizoochores and endozoochores shrinks. Results obtained indicate that the direct proximity of ancient woodland has a major effect on the occurrence of more poorly dispersing plants in recent woodlands, such as myrmecochores and heavy anemochores.
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