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Sand burial helps regulate timing of seed germination of a dominant herb in an inland dune ecosystem with a semiarid temperate climate

Ye, Xuehua, Li, Leilei, Baskin, Carol C., Baskin, Jerry M., Du, Juan, Huang, Zhenying
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.680 pp. 44-50
Allium, after-ripening, atmospheric precipitation, autumn, cold, ecosystems, habitats, life history, plant communities, plant establishment, sand, seasonal variation, seed dormancy, seed germination, seedling growth, seeds, semiarid zones, soil, spring, summer, temperate zones, temperature, winter, China
Sand burial plays important role in the life history of species in sandy areas of arid and semi-arid temperate regions, by affecting seed germination, seedling growth and survival and plant community. However, few studies have focused on the effects of sand burial on the dynamics of seed dormancy in such areas. In this study, seed germination characteristics of Allium tenuissimum, a dominant perennial herb in the dune ecosystem in Ordos Plateau in northern China, was investigated. Dormancy dynamics were monitored for seeds buried at sand depths of 0, 2 and 5 cm in the natural habitats for 13 months. Freshly matured seeds of A. tenuissimum were conditionally dormant and germinated to high percentages at high but not low temperatures. Germination percentages were increased by incubation at summer temperature (15/25 °C) and dry storage, but GA3 and cold stratification had no significant effects. These results suggested that seeds of A. tenuissimum were conditionally dormant, and incubation under warm, wet (but not cold, wet) conditions and dry after-ripening resulted in complete dormancy releasing. Seeds buried at 2 and 5 cm in the field for 13 months exhibited seasonal changes in germination, with an increase in spring and summer followed by decrease in autumn and winter. However, seeds on the soil surface (0 cm) gradually came out of dormancy beginning in January, and germinated percentage was highest in July, after which remained high. The peak of nondormancy for seeds buried in the field was in the summer, which corresponds to the period of highest annual precipitation. Sand burial helped mediate seeds dormancy dynamics of A. tenuissimum via seasonal dormancy cycling. Our finding contributes to a better understanding of how timing of seedling establishment is controlled in a semiarid dune ecosystem in temperate climate.