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Germinative behaviour of ten tree species in white-water floodplain forests in central Amazonia


Amazonian floodplain forests (known as várzea) are classified into high or low várzea depending on the spatial position on the plains. This topographic feature exposes the terrain over different time periods of inundation, causing a major limiting factor for tree seedling establishment. We hypothesize that, strategically, most of the seeds produced by trees in low várzea forests germinate faster and in synchrony (temporally concentrated germination), and that their seedlings tend to have cotyledons without reserve or foliaceous cotyledons (PEF). By contrast, seeds produced by high-várzea specialist trees exhibit slower and temporally scattered germination, and their seedlings tend to have reserve storage cotyledons (CHR). Generalist species may show no clear pattern or may be related to high-várzea species. To test this hypothesis, diaspores of 10 tree species were collected: five of low-várzea specialist trees, three of high-várzea specialist trees and two of generalist species. Seedling emergence and morphology were monitored daily in a nursery for a period of 150 days of being subjected to non-flooded (sown directly in várzea soil) and flooded conditions (15 days in water before sowing in the same soil). The seedling emergence of low-várzea species showed an increase of 37% in germinability whereas high-várzea and generalist species exhibited a decrease of 38% and 35% of germinability, respectively. Foliaceous cotyledons were preferentially found in seedlings of low-várzea species, and storage cotyledons were more common in those of high-várzea species, indicating how cotyledon morphology may determine the amount and use of resources available to a seedling during the first stages of establishment and growth. Conservation plans aiming for the maintenance of ecosystem services must consider these strategies.

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We wish to thank our field assistants, Jackson de Castro and Dalvino Alves de Oliveira, from the communities of Jarauá and Boca do Mamirauá, respectively, for their dedication and help throughout the period of seed collection. We also thank the Foundation for Research Support of the State of Amazonas – FAPEAM for their research assistance through the JDA Program – Edital Fapeam 008/2006. Financial support for publishing was provided by the Amazon Fund/BNDES and Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development. We are also grateful to the researchers Angela Steward, Pia Parolin, Robinson Botero-Arias, Suzana Ketelhute and Sam Schramski for their reviews, suggestions and corrections to the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Auristela Conserva.

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Conserva, A., Camargo, J.L.C., De Santana, D.G. et al. Germinative behaviour of ten tree species in white-water floodplain forests in central Amazonia. Folia Geobot 53, 89–101 (2018).

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  • Flood tolerance
  • Floodplain
  • Seed germination
  • Seedling ecology
  • Várzea forests