In climates with unpredictable seasonal patterns, the ability of seeds to remain dormant provides ecological advantages by restricting germination to favorable growth periods. With aseasonal climates, however, this trait may be maladaptive.
In this study, researchers used a GBIF-mediated dataset of 216,600 legume (Fabaceae) family occurrences combined with data on climate, dormancy status and seed size to investigate the biogeography of seed dormancy and trait associations.
The distribution of plants exhibiting the trait is more prevalent in temperate zones, whereas seed size is inversely correlated with latitude. They propose a model in which the dormancy trait depends on seed size and seasonality, and this is supported the emperical results. Seed size alone, however, appears to be the better predictor of dormancy.
They suggest that the patterns uncovered will translate across ecological and phylogenetic scales- that aseasonal climates will be dominated by plants producing larger, nondormant seeds, while smaller, dormant seeds will predominate seasonal habitats.