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Seed mass and elevation explain variation in seed longevity of Australian alpine species

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2018

Annisa Satyanti*
Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, Building Number 116, Daley Road, Acton ACT 2601, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia Center for Plant Conservation – Botanic Gardens, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Jalan Ir. Haji Juanda 16003, Bogor, Indonesia National Seed Bank, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Clunies Ross Street, Acton ACT 2601, Canberra, Australia
Adrienne B. Nicotra
Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, Building Number 116, Daley Road, Acton ACT 2601, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
Thomas Merkling
Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, Building Number 116, Daley Road, Acton ACT 2601, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
Lydia K. Guja
National Seed Bank, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Clunies Ross Street, Acton ACT 2601, Canberra, Australia Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research, CSIRO, Clunies Ross Street, Acton ACT 2601, Canberra, Australia
Author for correspondence: Annisa Satyanti, Email:


Conserving alpine ecosystems and the plant communities they contain using ex situ conservation requires an understanding of seed longevity. Knowledge of seed longevity may determine the effectiveness of ex situ seed banking for alpine plant conservation, and may provide insight into plant recruitment in situ. We sought to determine the influence of elevation and climatic variables, as well as plant and seed traits, on the seed longevity of 57 species inhabiting a unique biome, (sub-)alpine regions of mainland Australia. Seed longevity was estimated using controlled accelerated ageing tests to determine the time taken for seed viability to fall by 50%. We found that, across the study species, like alpine seeds elsewhere in the world, Australian alpine seeds are relatively short-lived and overall shorter-lived than Australian plants in general. Seed mass and elevation explained most of the variation in seed longevity among the Australian alpine species considered. Species with larger seed mass, and collections made at higher elevations, were found to have relatively short-lived seeds. Phylogeny, however, explained very little of the variation in longevity. Our results suggest that viability testing for Australian alpine seeds in ex situ seed banks should be conducted with shorter intervals than for the non-alpine flora. This study highlights how seed longevity in the Australian Alps is not dictated primarily by evolutionary lineage but rather by a complex combination of environmental variables and intrinsic seed characteristics. Potential implications for conservation ex situ and in situ in the context of climate change are discussed.

Research Paper
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 

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Current address: Department of Natural Resource Sciences McGill University, 21111 Lakeshore Rd, Ste Anne-de-Bellevue, QC, H9X 3V9, Canada.


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Seed mass and elevation explain variation in seed longevity of Australian alpine species
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