Journal Article

Comparison of germination and seed bank dynamics of dimorphic seeds of the cold desert halophyte <i>Suaeda corniculata</i> subsp. <i>mongolica</i>

Dechang Cao, Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin, Fan Yang and Zhenying Huang

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 8, pages 1545-1558
Published in print December 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online September 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcs205
Comparison of germination and seed bank dynamics of dimorphic seeds of the cold desert halophyte Suaeda corniculata subsp. mongolica

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  • Ecology and Conservation
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Background and Aims

Differences in dormancy and germination requirements have been documented in heteromorphic seeds of many species, but it is unknown how this difference contributes to maintenance and regeneration of populations. The primary aim of this study was to compare the seed bank dynamics, including dormancy cycling, of the two seed morphs (black and brown) of the cold desert halophyte Suaeda corniculata and, if differences were found, to determine their influence on regeneration of the species.

Method

Seeds of the two seed morphs were buried, exhumed and tested monthly for 24 months over a range of temperatures and salinities, and germination recovery and viability were determined after exposure to salinity and water stress. Seedling emergence and dynamics of the soil seed bank were also investigated for the two morphs.

Key Results

Black seeds had an annual dormancy/non-dormancy cycle, while brown seeds, which were non-dormant at maturity, remained non-dormant. Black seeds also exhibited an annual cycle in sensitivity of germination to salinity. Seedlings derived from black seeds emerged in July and August and those from brown seeds in May. Seedlings were recruited from 2·6 % of the black seeds and from 2·8 % of the brown seeds in the soil, and only 0·5 % and 0·4 % of the total number of black and brown seeds in the soil, respectively, gave rise to seedlings that survived to produce seeds. Salinity and water stress induced dormancy in black seeds and decreased viability of brown seeds. Brown seeds formed only a transient soil seed bank and black seeds a persistent seed bank.

Conclusions

The presence of a dormancy cycle in black but not in brown seeds of S. corniculata and differences in germination requirements of the two morphs cause them to differ in their germination dynamics. The study contributes to our limited knowledge of dormancy cycling and seed bank formation in species producing heteromorphic seeds.

Keywords: Dormancy; halophyte seeds; salinity; seed germination; seedling recruitment; seed bank dynamics; Suaeda corniculata

Journal Article.  8469 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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