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Aerial seed storage in Melaleuca ericifolia Sm. (Swamp Paperbark): environmental triggers for seed release

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Abstract

Aerial seed banks are potentially the main source of sexual recruitment for woody wetland plants. Whilst the importance of soil seed banks for the persistence and recruitment of wetland plants has been examined in many studies, the role of aerial seed banks has been largely neglected. We used seed traps and the seedling emergence technique to quantify the seed rain from aerial seed banks of the Swamp Paperbark Melaleuca ericifolia Sm. (Myrtaceae) in Dowd Morass, a Ramsar-listed, brackish-water wetland in south-eastern Australia. Nine plant species germinated from material collected in seed traps over 2004–2005, but emergents were dominated (80–97%) by M. ericifolia. The mean number of M. ericifolia emergents ranged from <1 to <100 seedlings m−2 day−1, and showed a peak in the summer–autumn period. Regression analysis showed a significant negative correlation (r 2 = 0.738) between the number of M. ericifolia emergents and water depth. Water depth and salinity were negatively correlated (r 2 = 0.819), and increases in the number of M. ericifolia emergents as water levels fell were also associated with high salinities. Increasing air temperature and vapour pressure deficit also stimulated seed release during periods of drying. This study is one of the first to demonstrate the importance of aerial seed banks for sexual recruitment in woody wetland plants and the release of seed in relation to environmental factors. Aerial seed banks warrant consideration alongside soil seed banks for the establishment and long-term survival of woody plants in wetlands.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to John Topp from Gippsland Indigenous Plants for his assistance in collecting the seed trap material. We thank Jacqueline Salter, Elizabeth Wallis, Shauna Tupper and Dr Ni Watiniasih for access to their data. We also thank Dr Ross Thompson and the two anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Correspondence to Sheila Hamilton-Brown.

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Handling editor: Luis Mauricio Bini

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Hamilton-Brown, S., Boon, P.I., Raulings, E. et al. Aerial seed storage in Melaleuca ericifolia Sm. (Swamp Paperbark): environmental triggers for seed release. Hydrobiologia 620, 121–133 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-008-9623-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-008-9623-6

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