, Volume 169, Issue 2, pp 195-204

Germination response to fire-related factors of seeds from non-serotinous and serotinous cones

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Abstract

Pinus halepensis, a Mediterranean pine tree, is a partially serotinous species: individual trees of this species carry both non-serotinous and serotinous cones. Serotinous cones open mainly after fire, whereas non-serotinous cones open in absence of fire. In this study we addressed the question, whether or not this cone response is linked with the germination response of seeds to fires. Two main factors associated with fire are heating of seeds and soil pH. A combination of high heat and high pH simulates a scenario with fire, whereas low heat and low pH simulates a scenario without fire. We assessed the separate and combined effects of heat and pH on the germination rate and the percentage of germination of seeds from non-serotinous cones and two age classes of serotinous cones of P. halepensis. Heat had no effect on the percentage of germination of seeds from any of the cone types, but did positively affect the germination rates of seeds from both age-classes of serotinous cones. High pH negatively affected the germination rate of seeds from all cone types as well as the percentage of germination of seeds from non-serotinous cones. The combinations of heat and pH had different effects on the three cone types: percentage of germination and rate of germination of seeds from non-serotinous cones was higher in the combination high heat-high pH than in the combination low heat-low pH. In the combination high heat-high pH, seeds from serotinous cones germinated better than seeds from non-serotinous cones. The different germination responses of seeds from non-serotinous and serotinous cones could not be attributed to differences in cone age. Our results indicate that the cone response is linked to the germination response of the seeds in P. halepensis, with seeds from serotinous cones being more tolerant to fire related factors.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.