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Differential effects of reduced water potential on the germination of floodplain grassland species indicative of wet and dry habitats

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2014

Kristin Ludewig*
Affiliation:
Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource Management, Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, 35392 Giessen, Germany
Bianka Zelle
Affiliation:
Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource Management, Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, 35392 Giessen, Germany
R. Lutz Eckstein
Affiliation:
Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource Management, Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, 35392 Giessen, Germany
Eva Mosner
Affiliation:
Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde (BfG), 56068Koblenz, Germany
Annette Otte
Affiliation:
Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource Management, Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, 35392 Giessen, Germany
Tobias W. Donath
Affiliation:
Institute of Landscape Ecology and Resource Management, Research Centre for Biosystems, Land Use and Nutrition (IFZ), Justus Liebig University Giessen, 35392 Giessen, Germany
*

Abstract

Floodplain meadow ecosystems are characterized by high water level fluctuations and highly variable soil water potentials. Additionally, climate change scenarios indicate an increasing risk for summer drought along the northern Upper Rhine and the Middle Elbe River, Germany. While adult plants often persist even after strong changes in water availability, early life phases, such as seed germination and seedling establishment, might be more vulnerable. Therefore we tested whether reduced soil water potentials will affect the germination of meadow species and whether the response varies between (1) forbs indicative of wet and dry habitats and (2) seeds originating from sites along the rivers Elbe and Rhine. We exposed seeds of 20 floodplain meadow species with different moisture requirements from five plant families to a water potential gradient ranging from 0 to − 1.5 MPa. While across species germination percentage and synchrony decreased, germination time increased at reduced water potentials. Germination of the species indicative of dry habitats decreased more strongly, was slower and less synchronous at reduced water potentials than that of species indicative of wet habitats. Seeds from sites along the rivers Elbe and Rhine did not differ in their germination characteristics. We propose that species of wet sites follow an all-or-nothing-strategy with fast and synchronous germination to maximize competitive advantages, betting on a high probability of moist conditions for establishment (optimists). In contrast, species from dry sites appear to follow a bet-hedging strategy with a moisture-sensing mechanism for unsuitable conditions (pessimists), resulting in a slower and less synchronous germination.

Type
Research Papers
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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