Lower dormancy with rapid germination is an important strategy for seeds in an arid zone with unpredictable rainfall

Corrine Duncan, Nick Schultz, Wolfgang Lewandrowski, Megan K. Good, Simon Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Seed germination traits are key drivers of population dynamics, yet they are under-represented in community ecology studies, which have predominately focussed on adult plant and seed morphological traits. We studied the seed traits and germination strategy of eight woody plant species to investigate regeneration strategies in the arid zone of eastern Australia. To cope with stochastic and minimal rainfall, we predict that arid seeds will either have rapid germination across a wide range of temperatures, improved germination under cooler temperatures, or dormancy and/or longevity traits to delay or stagger germination across time. To understand how temperature affects germination responses, seeds of eight keystone arid species were germinated under laboratory conditions, and under three diurnal temperatures (30/20°C, 25/15°C and 17/7°C) for 30 days. We also tested for decline in seed viability across 24 months in a dry-aging treatment (∼20°C). Six of the eight arid species studied had non-dormant, rapidly germinating seeds, and only two species had physiological dormancy traits. Seed longevity differed widely between species, from one recalcitrant species surviving only months in aging (P50 = <3 months) and one serotinous species surviving for many years (P50 = 84 months). Our results highlight the importance of understanding the reproductive strategies of plant species in arid environments. Rapid germination, the dominant seed trait of species included in this study, allows arid species to capitalise on sporadic rainfall. However, some species also exhibit dormancy and delayed germination; this an alternative strategy which spreads the risk of germination failure over time.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0218421
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


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