How long do seeds float? The potential role of hydrochory in passive revegetation management

Kirstie Fryirs*, Alexandra Carthey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Despite research into the dynamics of seed transport in fluvial systems, few consider how far seeds will travel, and how far from local or upstream seed sources passive regeneration can occur. We experimentally test the seed floating time of 60 plant species (50 native and 10 exotic) commonly found in riparian corridors of southeastern Australia. Around 50% of species had seeds that floated for 2 days or less, and for most species' (90%) all seeds had sunk within one week. Seeds of native species tended to sink more quickly than exotic, with 64% of native species' seeds floating for less than 2 days. In contrast, most exotic species (80%) floated for longer than 2 days, and 40% had seeds still floating after one week. This suggests that exotic species are good floaters and likely to travel long distances, making them excellent hydrochores. Finally, we applied the findings to a real case study, Wollombi Brook, NSW, Australia. We combined the findings from the seed floating experiment with low flow hydrology calculations to map the potential travel distance of seeds from known extant vegetation sources. We show that maximum seed travel distance per day could be up to 21 km. Thus, species that float for a week could potentially travel almost 150 km downstream before sinking or being deposited. We discuss how local versus upstream seed sources, and hydrochory, could be utilised in passive revegetation and weed management of riparian corridors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1153
Number of pages15
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number6
Early online date25 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • hydrochory
  • passive restoration
  • propagule dispersal
  • riparian vegetation
  • river management


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