, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 151–163 | Cite as

Seed dispersal, germination and early seedling establishment of Populus alba L. under simulated water table declines in different substrates

  • Eduardo González
  • Francisco Antonio Comín
  • Etienne Muller
Original Paper


Populus alba L. is an autochthonous species dominating the overstory of the floodplain forests across the Mediterranean region. In contrast to some other Populus spp., very little is known about its regeneration strategies. Poplars yearly disperse huge amounts of wind- and water-dispersed, non-dormant, short-lived tiny seeds that need the bare, open and moist substrates created by fluvial-geomorphic events to germinate and establish. To survive, the growing roots must keep pace with the falling water table and associated soil moisture zone. Using a greenhouse experimental facility, 9-day-old P. alba seedlings were subjected to five hydrological treatments (permanent saturation, drawdown rates of 1, 2.5, 5 cm day−1 and immediate drainage) in two different substrates (coarse and sandy), and their survival and growth were evaluated. Also, P. alba seed dispersal was monitored in the field, and seed germinability and longevity were tested in the laboratory. No seedlings survived the water table declines in the coarse substrate although survival was high (85%) under saturated conditions. In the sandy soil, survival was significantly greater in the permanent saturation (87%) and 1 cm day−1 (88%) treatments than in the 2.5 cm day−1 (58%), 5 cm day−1 (25%) and immediate drainage (22%) treatments. The lowest root and shoot growth rates occurred under the saturated and immediate drainage conditions. Seed dispersal lasted 6–8 weeks and peaked in mid-April, initial seed germinability was high (92%) and seed longevity was relatively long (half viability period, 30 days). The creation of nursery sites and release of controlled floods in mid-April, followed by water table declines of less than 1 cm day−1 in coarse substrates and less than 5 cm day−1 in sandy substrates are recommended for enhancing the initial establishment of P. alba seedlings.


Populus alba L. Rhizopod Water table decline Seedling establishment Seed dispersal Germination Controlled floods 



The authors are grateful to C. Aniento, A. Barcos, B. Bueno, M.L. Dehesa, A. Frutos, B. Gallardo, M. García, M. González, D. Jiménez, L. Mancebo, L. Miguel, T. Pascual, S. Presa, M. Trabucchi and A. Villarroya for their assistance in the field surveys, rhizopods construction, seed collection, sorting, harvest and careful measurements of the seedlings. We also express our gratitude to J.L. Arrúe and D. Moret, who assessed the designing and manufacturing of the TDR probes; and to the Professor C.S. Crawford and two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments on manuscript drafts. A. Vallejo, J.A. Pescador and all the members of the Field Research Support Unit, Estación Experimental de Aula Dei, CSIC provided essential logistic support. This research was funded by the Department of the Environmental Science, Technology and University, Aragon Government (Research group E-61 on Ecological Restoration), and Ministry of Science and Innovation of Spain, MICINN (CGL2008-05153-C02-01/BOS). The first author was funded by the former Ministry of Education and Science of Spain, MEC.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eduardo González
    • 1
  • Francisco Antonio Comín
    • 1
  • Etienne Muller
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (IPE)Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)ZaragozaSpain
  2. 2.Université de Toulouse, UPS, INPEcoLab (Laboratoire d’écologie fonctionnelle)ToulouseFrance
  3. 3.French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), EcoLab (Laboratoire d’écologie fonctionnelle)ToulouseFrance

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