Significant variation in population response to drought stress

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Banksiain Australia

Evidence of population variation in drought tolerance during seed germination in four Banksia (Proteaceae) species from Western Australia

by J. Anne Cochrane , Gemma L. Hoyle, Colin J. Yates, Jeff Wood and Adrienne B. Nicotra

in Australian Journal of Botany 62(6) 481-489


Given the predicted changes in rainfall patterns for many Mediterranean climate regions, identifying seed tolerance to moisture stress in the earliest phase of plant development is an important consideration for species conservation, management and restoration.Here, we used polyethylene glycol (PEG 8000) to induce plant water deficit similar to drought stress in a field situation.

Seeds of four Western Australia Banksia R.Br. (Proteaceae) species were incubated at seven levels of moisture potential (0 to -1.5 MPa) and three constant temperatures (10°C, 15°C and 20°C).

In the absence of moisture stress, germination was uniformly high, but increasing drought stress led to reduced and delayed germination in all species. Overall, the threshold moisture potential value for a significant decline, and delay, in germination was –0.25 MPa.

Results suggested that one species (B. coccinea) is likely to be most vulnerable to germination failure under predicted changes in rainfall patterns, whereas another (B. media) is likely to be less vulnerable.

There was significant variation in population response to drought stress. However, this variation could not be explained by rainfall across species distributions. We discuss the PEG approach for assessing seed sensitivity to moisture stress, particularly in the context of shifting rainfall under climate change.

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