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

Cao, Dechang, Baskin, Carol C., Baskin, Jerry M., Yang, Fan, Huang, Zhenying
Annals of botany 2012 v.110 no.8 pp. 1545-1558
Suaeda, buried seeds, cold, dormancy, halophytes, morphs, seed germination, seedling emergence, seedlings, soil, temperature, viability, water salinity, water stress
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.