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Seed Longevity of Alpine Snowbed Plants in a Warmer World

Paper Reviewed
Bernareggi, G., Carbognani, M., Petraglia, A. and Mondoni, A. 2015. Climate warming could increase seed longevity of alpine snowbed plants. Alpine Botany 125: 69-78.

Bernareggi et al. (2015) set the stage for their study by noting that vegetation regeneration from seeds is becoming increasingly important for species persistence, migration and conservation, especially in high-elevation environments," where they say that "the ability of seeds to remain viable for a long time is a crucial prerequisite for seed persistence in the soil and in germplasm banks."

Working in a snowbed habitat in the high Gavia Valley of the Italian Rhaetian Alps -- which has a mean annual temperature of -1.4°C -- the four Italian scientists analyzed the effects of a moderately warmer parental growth environment (generated by open-top chambers) on the subsequent seed longevity of four alpine snowbed species. And what did this work reveal?

Bernareggi et al. report that the seeds produced by the plants exposed to warmer temperatures were significantly longer-lived than those produced by plants growing under natural conditions, further noting that under moderate climate warming of about + 2°C, the alpine snowbed species "produced seeds with an extended resistance to heat stress indicating an effective rapid response to the new environment."

In closing, therefore, the Italian researchers state that "future models relating vegetation dynamics to climate change should consider the possibility that seed longevity increases in response to climate warming."

Posted 27 January 2016