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Seed dormancy and longevity in subarctic and alpine populations of Silene suecica


Despite the strong environmental control of seed dormancy and longevity, their changes along latitudes are poorly understood. The aim of this study was to assess seed dormancy and longevity in different populations across the distribution of the arctic–alpine plant Silene suecica. Seeds of seven populations collected from alpine (Spain, Italy, Scotland) and subarctic (Sweden, Norway) populations were incubated at four temperature regimes and five cold stratification intervals for germination and dormancy testing. Seed longevity was studied by exposing seeds to controlled ageing (45 °C, 60% RH) and regularly sampled for germination. Fresh seeds of S. suecica germinated at warm temperature (20/15 °C) and more in subarctic (80–100%) compared to alpine (20–50%) populations showed a negative correlation with autumn temperature (i.e., post-dispersal period). Seed germination increased after cold stratification in all populations, with different percentages (30–100%). Similarly, there was a large variation of seed longevity (p50 = 12–32 days), with seeds from the wettest locations showing faster deterioration rate. Subarctic populations of S. suecica were less dormant, showing a warmer suitable temperature range for germination, and a higher germinability than alpine populations. Germination and dormancy were driven by an interplay of geographical and climatic factors, with alpine and warm versus subarctic and cool autumn conditions, eliciting a decrease and an increase of emergence, respectively. Germination and dormancy patterns typically found in alpine habitats may not be found in the arctic.

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We are grateful to Prof. Brita Stedje (Natural history Museum, Oslo, Norway) for providing seeds and weather data for the Norwegian population. Andy Scobie (Cairngorms Rare Plants Project) collected seeds from the Scottish population, with kind permission from the Scottish Natural Heritage. Lastly, we thank Graziano Rossi (University of Pavia, Italy) for his contributions to the paper.

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AM and TA conceived the idea; AM, TA and SO performed the experiments; JVM and UC-G provided the seeds and climatic data for the northern populations and contributed to the data interpretation. All the authors contributed to the writing of the text.

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Correspondence to Andrea Mondoni.

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Andrea Mondoni, Simone Orsenigo, Jonas V. Müller, Ulla Carlsson-Graner, Borja Jiménez-Alfaro, Thomas Abeli declare they do not have conflict of interest.

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Mondoni, A., Orsenigo, S., Müller, J.V. et al. Seed dormancy and longevity in subarctic and alpine populations of Silene suecica . Alp Botany 128, 71–81 (2018).

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  • Seed dormancy and germination
  • Central and marginal population
  • Climate change
  • Reproduction
  • Alpine species
  • Adaptation