Seed germination traits of desert perennials

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40 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

While understanding that seed germination is crucial for ecological restoration activities, the seed traits of desert perennials are understudied. We experimentally determined germination traits of 43 species from 14 families from Hummock grasslands in the Great Sandy Desert, Australia. We defined morphological and physiological seed traits of framework species required for restoration and investigated the effects of fire and temperature on seed germination. We classified dormancy and explored the effect of Karrikinolide, a fire cue derived from smoke, on germination. Seeds of 38 (88%) out of 43 species were dormant: 13 (30%) with physical and 25 (58%) with physiological dormancy. Karrikinolide promoted seed germination of 9 (21%) species across all life-forms except trees, and widened the range of germination temperatures and increased germination rate of one species. Although high germination percentages were obtained over a wide temperature range, germination rate was affected by temperature. Non-dormant seeds and seeds pre-treated to overcome physical dormancy germinated quickly, with times to 50% germination of 1–5 days. Dormancy class differed between life-forms and families. Fast germination of non-dormant seeds is a trait that allows seeds to germinate during short periods of moisture availability. An absence of under-developed embryos is consistent with the global trends for hot deserts. A response to Karrikinolide shows that seed germination is related to a fire cue. These results will inform land managers of effective seed pre-treatments prior to seed broadcasting for restoration, and information on seed germination temperatures and rates will improve the understanding of when and where seeds could germinate in restored sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077-1091
Number of pages15
JournalPlant Ecology
Volume218
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017

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