Accelerated seed dispersal along linear disturbances in the Canadian oil sands region.
Habitat fragmentation is typically seen as inhibiting movement via erosion in connectivity, although some patterns of early-phase disturbance, such as narrow linear disturbances in otherwise undisturbed forests, may actually facilitate the dispersal of certain species. Such features are common in Alberta's oil sands region as legacies from seismic hydrocarbon exploration used to map oil reserves. Many of the ecological implications of these disturbances are unknown. Here, we investigate the effect of these forest dissections by experimentally testing dispersal patterns along seismic lines compared with adjacent forests using two proxy materials for wind-dispersed seeds, Typha latifolia seed and goose down feathers. We found that wind speeds were up to seven times higher and 95th percentile seed dispersal distances nearly four times farther on seismic lines compared with undisturbed forests and the corresponding effect of these features on seed dispersal distances can be substantial, potentially facilitating future changes in composition and ecological processes in boreal forests. This raises important considerations for native and invasive species, particularly in the context of climate change and the associated importance of seed movement and migration.