Seed biology and rehabilitation in the arid zone: a study in the Shark Bay world heritage area, Western Australia

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Abstract

Research into seed biology and restoration ecology of areas disturbed by mining is crucial to their revegetation. Shark Bay Salt, a solar salt facility in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area in Western Australia has several areas of disturbance as a result of 'soil borrowing'. Soil from these areas termed 'borrow pits' was used to create infrastructure such as the roads and embankments surrounding the evaporation ponds. Many of the pits contain little to no vegetation after >10 years since disturbance ceased, hence research into their restoration is now essential. A vegetation survey at the site established the key species in the undisturbed vegetation, and investigated the vegetation in borrow pits subject to natural migration and topsoil replacement. The vegetation communities in the borrow pits were vastly different to those in the undisturbed vegetation, highlighting the need for research into revegetation. An investigation into the use of 'borrowed' topsoil on a small scale showed that seedling recruitment from 'borrowed' topsoil was generally similar in the donor site (natural vegetation) and the borrow pits. Due to the absence of topsoil for further revegetation, it was necessary to understand seed germination and dormancy characteristics to establish seed pre-treatments prior to seed broadcasting and seedling (greenstock) planting. An investigation into seed germination and dormancy characteristics of 18 common species revealed that most species germinated equally well at 26/13oC and 33/18oC, however seven species had improved performance at 26/13oC. Untreated seeds of seven species exhibited high germination. Seeds of two species had low imbibition, which increased with hot-water treatment, and hence require scarification for germination. Germination of seeds of three species substantially increased with gibberellic acid (GA3), smoke water (SW) and karrikinolide (KAR1, a butenolide isolated from smoke). Seeds of the remaining six species had low germination regardless of treatment. As a result, species were classified as likely to be non-dormant (44%), physiologically dormant (44%) or physically dormant (11%). Physiological dormancy of three species was at least partly alleviated by dry afterripening, whereby moisture content of seeds was adjusted to 13% or 50% equilibrium relative humidity and seeds were stored at 30oC or 45oC for several months. All iv after-ripening conditions increased germination percentage and rate of two species with one only germinating when treated with GA3 or KAR1. The germination of the third species was dependent on after-ripening temperature and seed moisture content.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2008


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