Pollen and seed dispersal inferred from seedling genotypes: the Bayesian revolution has passed here too.
ABSTRACT Understanding precisely how plants disperse their seeds and pollen in their neighbourhood is a central question for both ecologists and evolutionary biologists because seed and pollen dispersal governs both the rate of spread of an expanding population and gene flow within and among populations. The concept of a 'dispersal kernel' has become extremely popular in dispersal ecology as a tool that summarizes how dispersal distributes individuals and genes in space and at a given scale. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, the study by Moran & Clark (2011) (M&C in the following) shows how genotypic and spatial data of established seedlings can be analysed in a Bayesian framework to estimate jointly the pollen and seed dispersal kernels and finally derive a parentage analysis from a full-probability approach. This approach applied to red oak shows important dispersal of seeds (138 m on average) and pollen (178 m on average). For seeds, this estimate contrasts with previous results from inverse modelling on seed trap data (9.3 m). This research gathers several methodological advances made in recent years in two research communities and could become a cornerstone for dispersal ecology.