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Post-burning regeneration of the Chaco seasonally dry forest: germination response of dominant species to experimental heat shock
- Jaureguiberry, Pedro, Díaz, Sandra
- Oecologia 2015 v.177 no.3 pp. 689-699
- Mediterranean climate, drought, ecosystems, fires, forests, germination, graminoids, heat shock response, heat tolerance, heat treatment, photoperiod, plant communities, seed dispersal, seeds, Argentina, El Gran Chaco
- Plant species of the Chaco seasonally dry forest of central Argentina have presumably been under a low evolutionary pressure to develop specialized fire-response traits, such as heat-stimulated germination. Nevertheless, other historical factors such as seasonal drought and/or endozoochorus dispersal could have led some species to develop heat-tolerant seeds. Therefore, heat-tolerant germination should be more common than heat-stimulated or heat-sensitive germination. To test this, we exposed seeds of 26 dominant species from the Chaco region to a broad range of experimental heat treatments and incubated them for 30 days at 25 °C and 12 h photoperiod. We then scored the percent germination and classified them as heat-stimulated, heat-tolerant or heat-sensitive based on their germination following heat treatments relative to control. Seventeen species showed heat-tolerant germination, including all native graminoids. Seven species showed heat-stimulated germination, under the less-intense heat treatments. Only two species showed heat-sensitive germination. Endozoochory had no influence on germination responses. We suggest that, unlike Mediterranean-climate ecosystems, fire was not a major evolutionary force in the development of Chaco forests, and our results provide greater understanding of the potential response of Chaco plant communities in the face of increasingly frequent fires.