University of Innsbruck

Pros and cons of using a standard protocol to test germination of Alpine species

Storing seeds in seed banks is an effective way to preserve plant diversity and conserve species. Checking the seed germination success before archiving seeds in a seedbank is a necessary step for a valuable conservation. As part of the “Alpine Seed Conservation and Research Network”, we tested the germination of 255 characteristic Alpine species from the European Eastern Alps. We used a standard protocol for the tests, as applied when seeds are scarce or germination requirements are unknown, and evaluated the obtained results in terms of applicability of the protocol and ecology of the species.

We classified the species according to species rarity, plant community, occurrence at elevation belts, bedrock types, as well as CSR strategies, and further, seed mass was examined. In any classification in this study, about half of the species germinated up to intermediate and high extents, but the other half did not germinate or only to a minor extent.

For ex situ seed banking this means a 50/50 chance of a successful germination when testing seeds of Alpine species using a standard protocol. The dormancy of the seeds remained untested in this study, but seems to play a major role for a germination success. Germination is not only one of the most important events of the reproductive cycle of plants, but could also be a key feature in species' responses to changing environmental conditions.



Figure 1 - Some examples of seeds and seedlings of tested species from top left clockwise to bottom left: Seed of Silene exscapa; seedling of Silene exscapa; seeds of Leucanthemopsis alpina; seedling of Leucanthemopsis alpina; seedling of Minuartia sedoides; seeds of Minuartia sedoides; seedling of Poa alpina; seedling of Saxifraga cernua. Pictures were taken under a digital microscope; credit to Pernfuß B.



Margreiter V, Pagitz K, Berg Ch, Schwager P, Erschbamer B. (2020) Pros and cons of using a standard protocol to test germination of alpine species. Plant Ecology.

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