Effects of temperature on germination in eight Western Australian herbaceous species

  • Anne CochraneEmail author


Germination is a high-risk phase in a plant’s life cycle and is directly regulated by temperature. Seeds germinate over a range of temperatures within which there is an optimum temperature, with thresholds above and below which no germination occurs. Rapid changes in temperature associated with global warming may cause a disconnect between temperatures a seed experiences and temperatures over which germination can occur. This paper explores the temperature dimension of the germination niche of eight herbaceous species from South West Western Australia as part of a broader assessment of endemic native species at risk of decline under global warming. The data obtained from germination studies on a temperature gradient plate were used to populate models to predict optimum germination responses (mean time to germination, germination timing and success) under current (1950–2000 averages) and future (2070 high greenhouse gas emission) temperature scenarios. The species exhibited a mix of germination responses, often with high tolerance to high diurnal temperatures. A number of species did not reach their full potential within the experimental period, indicating the presence of dormancy not overcome due to temperature alone. Modelling revealed that for some species the opportunity for germination may decline due to rising temperatures, but for others there would be little change, though a shift in germination timing may be expected. This approach to identifying extinction risk contributes tangibly to efforts to predict plant responses to environmental change and can help prioritize species for management actions, direct limited resources towards further investigations and supplement bioclimatic modelling.


seed germination germination timing temperature dimension climate change models 



I would like to thank Andrew Crawford (DBCA) for collection of seed from Anigozanthos manglesii, Borya sphaerocephala, Podolepis aristata and Rhodanthe pyrethrum and Nicole Siemon (Siemon and Associates) for collection of Carex tereticaulis seed. Collections were made for conservation purposes and partially funded through the international Millennium Seed Bank Project (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew UK). Support for the purchase of the temperature gradient plate came from a Natural Heritage Trust grant from the Australian Government through the South Coast Natural Resource Management Inc. (Project 04SC1-13h). I thank Matt Williams (DBCA) for assistance with statistical analyses and two anonymous reviewers for their comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

There is no conflict of interest and all research complies with the current laws of the country where it has been performed.


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Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and AttractionsPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Research School of BiologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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