Germination traits explain soil seed persistence across species: the case of Mediterranean annual plants in cereal fields

Abstract : † Background and Aims Seed persistence in the soil under field conditions is an important issue for the maintenance of local plant populations and the restoration of plant communities, increasingly so in the light of rapidly changing land use and climate change. Whereas processes important for dispersal in space are well known, knowledge of processes governing dispersal in time is still limited. Data for morphological seed traits such as size have given contradictory results for prediction of soil seed persistence or cover only a few species. There have been few experimental studies on the role of germination traits in determining soil seed persistence, while none has studied their predictive value consistently across species. Delayed germination, as well as light requirements for germination , have been suggested to contribute to the formation of persistent seed banks. Moreover, diurnally fluctuating temperatures can influence the timing of germination and are therefore linked to seed bank persistence. † Methods The role of germination speed measured by T 50 (days to germination of 50 % of all germinated seeds), light requirement and reaction to diurnally fluctuating temperatures in determining seed persistence in the soil was evaluated using an experimental comparative data set of 25 annual cereal weed species. † Key Results It is shown that light requirements and slow germination are important features to maintain seeds ungerminated just after entering the soil, and hence influence survival of seeds in the soil. However, the detection of low diurnally fluctuating temperatures enhances soil seed bank persistence by limiting germination. Our data further suggest that the effect of diurnally fluctuating temperatures, as measured on seeds after dispersal and dry storage, is increasingly important to prevent fatal germination after longer burial periods. † Conclusions These results underline the functional role of delayed germination and light for survival of seeds in the soil and hence their importance for shaping the first part of the seed decay curve. Our analyses highlight the detection of diurnally fluctuating temperatures as a third mechanism to achieve higher soil seed persistence after burial which interacts strongly with season. We therefore advocate focusing future research on mechanisms that favour soil seed persistence after longer burial times and moving from studies of morphological features to exploration of germination traits such as reaction to diurnally fluctuating temperatures.
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Arne Saatkamp, Laurence Affre, Thierry Dutoit, Peter Poschlod. Germination traits explain soil seed persistence across species: the case of Mediterranean annual plants in cereal fields. Annals of Botany, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2011, ⟨10.1093/aob/mcq255⟩. ⟨hal-01327240⟩

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