J Plant Ecol ›› 2018, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (4): 542-552.doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtx063

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Ecological role of physical dormancy in seeds of Oxytropis racemosa in a semiarid sandland with unpredictable rainfall

Dandan Hu1,2, Jerry M. Baskin3, Carol C. Baskin3,4, Xuejun Yang1 and Zhenying Huang1,*   

  1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 20 Nanxincun, Xiangshan, Haidian District, Beijing 100093, P.R. China; 2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 19(A) Yuquan Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing 100039, P.R. China; 3 Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506, USA; 4 Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA
  • Received:2017-07-26 Accepted:2017-11-07 Online:2017-11-10 Published:2018-05-23
  • Contact: Huang, Zhenying E-mail:zhenying@ibcas.ac.cn

Abstract: Aims Seed dormancy and the soil seed bank are crucial to plant regeneration strategy, especially in semiarid ecosystems with unpredictable precipitation. The aim of this study was to investigate how seed dormancy is controlled by environmental factors and how it is correlated with the soil seed bank and regeneration of the perennial legume Oxytropis racemosa, a dominant perennial herb in Mu Us Sandland of semiarid China.
Methods Germination and imbibition experiments on fresh intact and scarified seeds of O. racemosa were used to identify physical dormancy (PY) in seeds of this species. Soil seed bank dynamics, timing of seedling emergence and the fate of buried seeds in the natural habitat were investigated.
Important findings PY was broken by mechanical scarification or wet heat/ice water cycles but not solely by dry heat or wet heat treatment. The soil seed bank exhibited seasonal changes in the number of seeds, which was highest in September and lowest in July. Seeds buried at different sand depths gradually lost dormancy; 20–42% of the seeds remained dormant after 20 months of burial. Dormancy break occurs gradually throughout the year. Our results indicate that O. racemosa exhibits hardcoatedness heterogeneity that spreads germination of a seed cohort between seasons and years in the semiarid environment, where the amount of precipitation during the growing season is highly variable.

Key words: Oxytropis racemosa, physical dormancy, seedling emergence, soil moisture, soil seed bank, soil temperature, unpredictable rainfall

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