CIE Spotlight: Germination Ecology and Seed Dispersal of a Critically Endangered Plant: A Case Study of Pomaderris vacciniifolia (Round-Leaf Pomaderris)

John Patykowski

John P.

Authors: Patykowski, John; Dell, Matthew; Gibson, Maria

Source: PLOS ONE, 11 (8), AUG 24 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Change in ecosystem disturbance regimes from human land-use poses a worldwide problem for management of rare species. Two important types of disturbance influencing the persistence of species in Australian ecosystems are habitat fragmentation and fire.

In this study, seed dispersal and the germination ecology of Pomaderris vacciniifolia—a critically endangered, rare endemic Australian shrub—were examined to identify likely influences of fire and fragmentation on the decline of populations. The response of seed germination to simulated effects of wildfire and canopy openings was investigated, as was the unaided dispersal capability of seeds from parent plants.

A significant increase in germination rate was observed following 100°C heat treatment to seeds, while smoke and light exposure had little influence. Seed imbibition was strongly influenced by heat treatment.

The findings indicate a likely positive post-fire germination response, with implications for recruitment success determined by moisture availability following fire. Unaided seed dispersal was limited, which partly explains the apparent decline of populations.

Understanding disturbance requirements for threatened species, and subsequent management of landscapes for disturbance, will aid conservation of rare species throughout the world.