Seed longevity of dominant plant species from degraded savanna in semi-arid Tanzania
AbstractArtificially buried seeds were followed by periodic exhumation and germination during 21 months in Kondoa Irangi Hills, central Tanzania. Viable seeds from thirteen selected species were buried in polythene envelopes at a depth of 15 cm below woodland vegetation. Lethal
germination, fungal decay and insect infestation were singled out as the most important contributors to loss of viability among seeds. Hierarchical clustering based on a seed’s mean viability, seed shape and presence or absence of dispersal appendages, produced three distinct groups: (1) non-dormant seeds (2) seeds with enforced dormancy and (3) seeds with seed coat imposed dormancy. The low decay constant of some species is an indication of their abilities to form persistent seed banks. The intermittent and extended germination of seeds of the same species from the same batch shown by some species may be regarded as an ecological adaptation to prevent synchronous germination in unpredictable harsh environments, whereas prompt germination of some Acacia seeds may be viewed as a strategy to avoid seed predation in the soil. Seed dormancy, which predicts seed longevity, is strongly dependent on seed moisture content and partly on other environmental factors, notably low temperatures, light and increased carbon dioxide levels.
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