Understanding mast seeding for conservation and land management.
Masting, the intermittent and synchronous production of large seed crops, can have profound consequences for plant populations and the food webs that are built on their seeds. For centuries, people have recorded mast crops because of their importance in managing wildlife populations. In the past 30 years, we have begun to recognize the importance of masting in conserving and managing many other aspects of the environment: promoting the regeneration of forests following fire or other disturbance, conserving rare plants, conscientiously developing the use of edible seeds as non-timber forest products, coping with the consequences of extinctions on seed dispersal, reducing the impacts of plant invasions with biological control, suppressing zoonotic diseases and preventing depredation of endemic fauna. We summarize current instances and future possibilities of a broad set of applications of masting. By exploring in detail several case studies, we develop new perspectives on how solutions to pressing conservation and land management problems may benefit by better understanding the dynamics of seed production. A lesson common to these examples is that masting can be used to time management, and often, to do this effectively, we need models that explicitly forecast masting and the dynamics of seed-eating animals into the near-term future.