Climate change: alters plant recruitment from seed

Climate change: alters plant recruitment from seed

Hot Topics in Ecology

Climate change: alters plant recruitment from seed

Synthesis by Dr. Anne Cochrane, WA Department of Parks and Wildlife, Dr. Adrienne Nicotra, Australian National University and Dr. Mark Ooi, University of Wollongong
Changed fire regimes as a result of climate warming can alter patterns of seedling recruitment. Corymbia calophylla seedling recruitment on Mt. Manypeaks, WA. Photo: A. Cochrane

Most plant species rely on seeds for recruitment and persistence in the landscape. Local environments have a strong influence on seed germination and so shifts in temperature and moisture caused by rapid environmental change may affect when, where and whether plants will recruit. Small increases in temperature, changes to rainfall seasonality or slight reductions in moisture availability during the growing season may threaten populations of some plant species. Impacts of changing environmental conditions on seeds have already been documented and include reduced germination with soil warming, shifts in the timing of germination, reduced seedling survival and shortened survival of seeds in the soil. Global climate change will also alter fire regimes, in turn leading to probable declines in seed production, seedling survival and seed-bank viability. Although episodic disturbances like fire are normal in some systems, providing recruitment opportunities, changed environmental conditions may radically alter vegetation characteristics and composition. Shifts in the timing of germination will influence population dynamics, community composition and species geographic ranges. Some species will face a high risk of local population extinction, possibly leading to biodiversity decline over time. Together these changes may require modification to seed use in agriculture and in ecological restoration. Species with germination strategies that vary among individuals or across populations may be more robust and ultimately have a lower extinction risk. Although there is strong evidence that plant species and communities are threatened by climate change through effects on recruitment, currently, we do not know for sure which communities are most at risk. Planning for unexpected seed responses to global warming, particularly in vulnerable ecosystems already experiencing wide temperature and moisture extremes, may require ex-situ seed conservation and assisted plant migration.

Hot Topic Lead Author: 
Name: Dr Anne Cochrane
Phone: +61 8 92199062

Name: Dr Adrienne Nicotra
Phone: +61 2 6125 9763

Name: Dr Mark Ooi
Phone: +61 2 4252 8209

Date approved: 
Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - 20:42
ID Title Location Type
8005 Briceño et al. (2015) Seeds at risk: How will a changing alpine climate affect regeneration from seeds in alpine areas? Alp Botany 125, 59-68. N/A Review paper
7765 Ooi M.K.J., Denham A.J., Santana V.M. & Auld T.D. (2014) Temperature thresholds of physically dormant seeds and plant functional response to fire: variation among species and relative impact of climate change. Ecology and Evolution 4, 656-71. Temperate climate in south-eastern Australia, with aseasonal rainfall Manipulative experiment
7763 Hoyle G. L., Venn S. E., Steadman K. J., Good R. B., McAuliffe E. J., Williams E. R. & Nicotra A. B. (2013) Soil warming increases plant species richness but decreases germination from the alpine soil seed bank. Global Change Biology 19, 1549-61. Australian Alps Manipulative experiment
7757 Hudson A. R., Ayre D. J. & Ooi M. K. J. (2015) Physical dormancy in a changing climate. Seed Science Research FirstView, 1-16. N/A Review
7758 Mondoni A., Rossi G., Orsenigo S. & Probert R.J. (2012) Climate warming could shift the timing of seed germination in alpine plants. Annals of Botany 110, 155-64. Italian alps Manipulative experiment
7759 Ooi M. K. J., Auld T. D. & Denham A. J. (2009) Climate change and bet-hedging: interactions between increased soil temperatures and seed bank persistence. Global Change Biology 15, 2375-86. Arid eastern Australia Manipulative experiment
7760 Tozer M.G. & Ooi M.K.J. (2014) Humidity-regulated dormancy onset in the Fabaceae: a conceptual model and its ecological implications for the Australian wattle Acacia saligna. Annals of Botany 114, 579-90. Temperate climate in south-eastern Australia, with aseasonal rainfall Manipulative experiment
7761 Hoyle G. L., Cordiner H., Good R. B. & Nicotra A. B. (2014) Effects of reduced winter duration on seed dormancy and germination in six populations of the alpine herb Aciphyllya glacialis (Apiaceae). Conservation Physiology 2, 1-11. Australian Alps Manipulative experiment
7754 Cochrane A., Yates C. J., Hoyle G. L. & Nicotra A. B. (2015) Will among-population variation in seed traits improve the chance of species persistence under climate change? Global Ecology and Biogeography 24, 12-24. N/A Review
7755 Walck J. L., Hidayati S. N., Dixon K. W., Thompson K. E. N. & Poschlod P. (2011) Climate change and plant regeneration from seed. Global Change Biology 17, 2145-61. N/A Review
7751 Cochrane A., Hoyle G. L., Yates C. J., Wood J. & Nicotra A. B. (2014) Climate warming delays and decreases seedling emergence in a Mediterranean ecosystem. Oikos 124, 150-60. Mediterranean-climate ecosystem of SW Western Australia Manipulative experiment
7752 Ooi M. K. J. (2012) Seed bank persistence and climate change. Seed Science Research 22, S53-S60. N/A Review
7749 Cochrane A., Daws M. I. & Hay F. R. (2011) Seed-based approach for identifying flora at risk from climate warming. Austral Ecology 36, 923-35. Mediterranean-climate ecosystem of SW Western Australia Manipulative experiment