Effects of flood-influenced factors on seed germination of Ambrosia tenuifolia
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Strong fluctuations are exhibited by populations of the perennial herb Ambrosia tenuifolia in the grasslands of the Salado basin (Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina), an area frequently enduring prolonged floods. Flooding causes the death of most dicotyledon plants of the community, A. tenuifolia among them, opening numerous gaps of various sizes. After the recession of the flood the density of A. tenuifolia seedlings was higher in flooded than in non-flooded plots and it was larger in wider gaps. Canopy removal in non-flooded plots increased field seedling emergence of A. tenuifolia up to the levels found in flooded plots. Responses of the seeds in the soil to gap-associated environmental factors such as light quality and temperature regime were studied both in the field and under controlled were studied both in the field and under controlled conditions. Seedling emergence was significantly enhanced when the red:far-red ratio of natural light reaching the soil surface under the canopy of nonflooded plots was increased by means of copper sulfate filters. The influence of light quality and temperature on germination of the soil seed population was also tested using grassland soil monoliths or mesocosms, transported from the field to the laboratory, in which the canopy was clipped and the soil exposed to either red or far-red light and kept at constant or fluctuating temperatures. Significant seedling emergence was observed only when the soil samples were exposed to red light and incubated at alternating temperatures. No emergence was recorded in samples exposed to far-red light or incubated at a constant 25°C. Seeds stored dry in the laboratory were also stimulated to germinate by red light and alternating temperatures but only after dormancy was sufficiently decreased by low temperature stratification or by low temperature under immersion. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that primary dormancy of A. tenuifolia seeds is decreased by low temperatures in winter even if the seeds are submerged as happens when floods occur. The decrease in dormancy makes the seeds prone to be stimulated to germinate by the Pfr form of phytochrome in combination with alternating temperatures. These conditions are likely to be met in the gaps opened by the flood-caused death of dicotyledon plants.
Key wordsFlooding Gaps red:far-red ratio Seed dormancy Ecosystem dynamics
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