Skip to main content

Germination sensitivity to water stress of eight Cistaceae species from the Western Mediterranean

  • Belén Luna (a1) and Daniel Chamorro (a1)

Water availability regulates timing of germination, especially in those environments where it is a limiting factor. However, the water requirements for germination of most wild Mediterranean species are unknown. In this work we analysed the germination response to water stress of eight Cistaceae species with hard-coated seeds, which are typical for the Mediterranean shrublands. Seeds were exposed to a heat shock in order to overcome physical dormancy and then incubated under five water potentials (0, −0.2, −0.4, −0.6 and −0.8 MPa). Ungerminated seeds following these treatments were transferred to water in order to evaluate the recovery of germination. Additionally, at the end of the experiment, viability of still ungerminated seeds was examined. We analysed final germination percentage, time to reach 50% of the final germination (t 50), recovery of germination and seed viability in relation to water stress treatments. Furthermore, hydrotime analysis was performed; sensitivity to water stress, as characterized by Ψb(50), was checked in relation to seed size of species. Overall, water stress delayed and decreased germination but species showed different germination sensitivities, which were not related to seed size. Recovery of germination was high after disappearance of water stress but seed viability decreased in some species. Consequently, post-fire germination of Cistaceae must be strongly regulated by water availability and their seeds can recover germination capacity when sufficient water is available after long periods of incomplete hydration. However, some seeds die during the wait.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence Email:
Hide All
Adams, R. (1999) Germination of Callitris seeds in relation to temperature, water stress, priming, and hydration–dehydration cycles. Journal of Arid Environments 43, 437448.
Allen, H. (2009) Vegetation and ecosystem dynamics. pp. 203227 in Woodward, J.C. (Ed.) The physical geography of the Mediterranean. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Arianoutsou, M. and Margaris, N.S. (1981) Early stages of regeneration after fire in a phryganic ecosystem (East Mediterranean). I. Regeneration by seed germination. Biologie-Ecologie Méditerraneenne 8, 119128.
Aronne, G. and Mazzoleni, S. (1989) The effects of heat exposure on seeds of Cistus incanus L. and Cistus monspeliensis L. Giornale Botanico Italiano 123, 283289.
Azcárate, F.M., Manzano, P. and Peco, B. (2010) Testing seed-size predictions in Mediterranean annual grasslands. Seed Science Research 20, 179188.
Baker, H.G. (1972) Seed weight in relation to environmental conditions in California. Ecology 53, 9971010.
Baskin, C.C. and Baskin, J.M. (2000) Taxonomy, anatomy and evolution of physical dormancy in seeds. Plant Species Biology 15, 139152.
Baskin, C. and Baskin, J. (2014) Seeds: Ecology, biogeography, and evolution of dormancy and germination. San Diego, Academic Press.
Baskin, J.M. and Baskin, C.C. (1982) Effects of wetting and drying cycles on the germination of seeds of Cyperus inflexus . Ecology 63, 248252.
Berrie, A.M.M. and Drennan, D.S.H. (1971) The effect of hydration–dehydration on seed germination. New Phytologist 70, 135142.
Bewley, J.D., Bradford, K., Hilhorst, H. and Nonogaki, H. (2013) Seeds. Physiology of development, germination and dormancy. New York, Springer.
Black, M.J., Halmer, P. and Bewley, J.D. (2006) The encyclopedia of seeds: science, technology and uses. London, CAB International.
Bochet, E., García-Fayos, P., Alborch, B. and Tormo, J. (2007) Soil water availability effects on seed germination account for species segregation in semiarid roadslopes. Plant and Soil 295, 179191.
Boydak, M., Dirik, H., Tilki, F. and Çalikoglu, M. (2003) Effect of water stress on germination in six provenances of Pinus brutia seeds from different bioclimatic zones in Turkey. Turkish Journal of Agriculture and Forestry 27, 9197.
Bradford, K.J. (1990) A water relations analysis of seed-germination rates. Plant Physiology 94, 840849.
Bradford, K.J. and Still, D.W. (2004) Applications of hydrotime analysis in seed testing. Seed Technology 26, 7585.
Céspedes, B., Torres, I., Urbieta, I.R. and Moreno, J.M. (2012) Effects of changes in the timing and duration of the wet season on the germination of the soil seed bank of a seeder-dominated Mediterranean shrubland. Plant Ecology 213, 919931.
Chamorro, D., Parra, A. and Moreno, J.M. (2016) Reproductive output, seed anatomy and germination under water stress in the seeder Cistus ladanifer subjected to experimental drought. Environmental and Experimental Botany 123, 5967.
Daws, M.I., Garwood, N.C. and Pritchard, H.W. (2006) Prediction of desiccation sensitivity in seeds of woody species: A probabilistic model based on two seed traits and 104 species. Annals of Botany 97, 667674.
Delgado, J.A., Serrano, J.M., López, F. and Acosta, F.J. (2001) Heat shock, mass-dependent germination, and seed yield as related components of fitness in Cistus ladanifer . Environmental and Experimental Botany 46, 1120.
De Luis, M., Raventós, J. and González-Hidalgo, J.C. (2006) Fire and torrential rainfall: effects on seedling establishment in Mediterranean gorse shrublands. International Journal of Wildland Fire 14, 413422.
De Luis, M., Raventós, J., Wiegand, T. and Carlos González-Hidalgo, J. (2008a) Temporal and spatial differentiation in seedling emergence may promote species coexistence in Mediterranean fire-prone ecosystems. Ecography 31, 620629.
De Luis, M., Verdú, M. and Raventós, J. (2008b) Early to rise makes a plant healthy, wealthy, and wise. Ecology 89, 30613071.
Donohue, K., de Casas, R.R., Burghardt, L., Kovach, K. and Willis, C.G. (2010) Germination, postgermination adaptation, and species ecological ranges. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 41, 293319.
Dubrovsky, J.G. (1996) Seed hydration memory in Sonoran Desert cacti and its ecological implication. American Journal of Botany 83, 624632.
Espigares, T. and Peco, B. (1993) Mediterranean pasture dynamics: the role of germination. Journal of Vegetation Science 4, 189194.
Evans, C.E. and Etherington, J.R. (1990) The effect of soil water potential on seed-germination of some British plants. New Phytologist 115, 539548.
Fenner, M. and Thompson, K. (2005) The ecology of seeds. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
Flores, J. and Briones, O. (2001) Plant life-form and germination in a Mexican inter-tropical desert: effects of soil water potential and temperature. Journal of Arid Environments 47, 485497.
Grime, J.P., Mason, G., Curtis, A.V., Rodman, J., Band, S.R., Mowforth, M.A.G., Neal, A.M. and Shaw, S. (1981) A comparative study of germination characteristics in a local flora. Journal of Ecology 69, 10171059.
Gummerson, R.J. (1986) The effect of constant temperatures and osmotic potentials on the germination of sugar-beet. Journal of Experimental Botany 37, 729741.
Hadas, A. (1982) Water movement to seeds in soils and seed water uptake. pp. 507527 in Khan, A.A. (Ed.) The physiology and biochemistry of seed development, dormancy and germination. New York, Elsevier Biomedical Press.
Hegarty, T.W. (1977) Seed activation and seed-germination under moisture stress. New Phytologist 78, 349359.
Ibáñez, A.N. and Passera, C.B. (1997) Factors affecting the germination of albaida (Anthyllis cytisoides L.), a forage legume of the Mediterranean coast. Journal of Arid Environments 35, 225231.
Janzen, D.H. (1971) Seed predation by animals. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 2, 465492.
Jurado, E. and Westoby, M. (1992) Germination biology of selected central Australian plants. Australian Journal of Ecology 17, 341348.
Karssen, C.M. (1982) Seasonal patterns of dormancy in weed seeds. pp. 243270 in Khan, A.A. (Ed.) The physiology and biochemistry of seed development, dormancy and germination. Amsterdam, Elsevier Biomedical Press.
Keeley, J.E., Pausas, J.G., Rundel, P.W. and Bradstock, R. (2011) Fire as an evolutionary pressure shaping plant traits. Trends in Plant Science 16, 406411.
Kikuzawa, K. and Koyama, H. (1999) Scaling of soil water absorption by seeds: an experiment using seed analogues. Seed Science Research 9, 171178.
Köchy, M. and Tielbörger, K. (2007) Hydrothermal time model of germination: parameters for 36 Mediterranean annual species based on a simplified approach. Basic and Applied Ecology 8, 171182.
Koller, D. and Hadas, A. (1982) Water relations in the germination of seeds. pp. 401431 in Lange, O.L.; Nobel, P.S.; Osmond, C.B.; Ziegler, H. (Eds) Encyclopedia of plant physiology. New Series Vol. 12B. Physiological plant ecology II. Water relations and carbon assimilation. Berlin, Springer-Verlag.
Kos, M. and Poschlod, P. (2008) Correlates of inter-specific variation in germination response to water stress in a semi-arid savannah. Basic and Applied Ecology 9, 645652.
Leishman, M.R. and Westoby, M. (1994) The role of seed size in seedling establishment in dry soil conditions: experimental evidence from semi-arid species. Journal of Ecology 82, 249258.
Leishman, M.R., Wright, I.J., Moles, A.T. and Westoby, M. (2000) The evolutionary ecology of seed size. pp. 3159 in Fenner, M. (Ed.) Seeds. The ecology of regeneration in plant communities. Wallingford, CAB International.
Lindsey, J.K. (1997) Applying generalized linear models. New York, Springer-Verlag.
Long, T.J. and Jones, R.H. (1996) Seedling growth strategies and seed size effects in fourteen oak species native to different soil moisture habitats. Trees – Structure and Function 11, 18.
Luna, B., Moreno, J.M., Cruz, A. and Fernández-González, F. (2007) Heat-shock and seed germination of a group of Mediterranean plant species growing in a burned area: an approach based on plant functional types. Environmental and Experimental Botany 60, 324333.
Luna, B., Pérez, B., Torres, I. and Moreno, J.M. (2012) Effects of incubation temperature on seed germination of Mediterranean plants with different geographical distribution ranges. Folia Geobotanica 47, 1727.
Martin, A., Grzeskowiak, V. and Puech, S. (1995) Germination variability in three species in disturbed Mediterranean environments. Acta Oecologica 16, 479490.
Mazer, S. (1989) Ecological, taxonomic, and life history correlates of seed mass among Indiana dune angiosperms. Ecological Monographs 59, 153175.
Metz, J., Liancourt, P., Kigel, J., Harel, D., Sternberg, M. and Tielbörger., K. (2010) Plant survival in relation to seed size along environmental gradients: a long-term study from semi-arid and Mediterranean annual plant communities. Journal of Ecology 98, 697704.
Michel, B.E. and Kaufmann, M.R. (1973) Osmotic potential of polyethylene-glycol 6000. Plant Physiology 51, 914916.
Milberg, P., Andersson, L., Elfverson, C. and Regnér, S. (1996) Germination characteristics of seeds differing in mass. Seed Science Research 6, 191197.
Miranda, J.D., Padilla, F.M. and Pugnaire, F.I. (2009) Response of a Mediterranean semiarid community to changing patterns of water supply. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11, 255266.
Moles, A.T. and Westoby, M. (2004) Seedling survival and seed size: a synthesis of the literature. Journal of Ecology 92, 372383.
Moreira, B. and Pausas, J.G. (2012) Tanned or burned: the role of fire in shaping physical seed dormancy. Plos One 7, e51523.
Moreno, J.M. and Oechel, W.C. (1992) Factors controlling postfire seedling establishment in southern California chaparral. Oecologia 90, 5060.
Moreno, J.M., Zuazua, E., Pérez, B., Luna, B., Velasco, A. and de Dios, V.R. (2011) Rainfall patterns after fire differentially affect the recruitment of three Mediterranean shrubs. Biogeosciences 8, 37213732.
Norden, N., Daws, M.I., Antoine, C., González, M.A., Garwood, N.C. and Chave, J. (2009) The relationship between seed mass and mean time to germination for 1037 tree species across five tropical forests. Functional Ecology 23, 203210.
Peco, B., Rico, L. and Azcárate, F.M. (2009) Seed size and response to rainfall patterns in annual grasslands: 16 years of permanent plot data. Journal of Vegetation Science 20, 816.
Pérez-Fernández, M.A., Calvo-Magro, E. and Ferrer-Castán, D. (2006) Simulation of germination of pioneer species along an experimental drought gradient. Journal of Environmental Biology 27, 679685.
Philippi, T. and Seger, J. (1989) Hedging one's evolutionary bets, revisited. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 4, 4144.
Potter, R.L., Ueckert, D.N., Petersen, J.L. and McFarland, M.L. (1986) Germination of four wing saltbush seeds: interaction of temperature, osmotic potential, and pH. Journal of Range Management 39, 4346.
Quintana, J.R., Cruz, A., Fernández-González, F. and Moreno, J.M. (2004) Time of germination and establishment success after fire of three obligate seeders in a Mediterranean shrubland of Central Spain. Journal of Biogeography 31, 241249.
Rees, M. (1994) Delayed germination of seeds: a look at the effects of adult longevity, the timing of reproduction, and population age/stage structure. American Naturalist 144, 4364.
Rees, M. (1996) Evolutionary ecology of seed dormancy and seed size. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B 351, 12991308.
Salisbury, E. (1974) Seed size and mass in relation to environment. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 186, 8388.
Schütz, W., Milberg, P. and Lamont, B.B. (2002) Germination requirements and seedling responses to water availability and soil type in four eucalypt species. Acta Oecologica 23, 32–30.
Shipley, B. and Parent, M. (1991) Germination responses of 64 wetland species in relation to seed size, minimum time to reproduction and seedling relative growth rate. Functional Ecology 5, 111118.
Tavşanoğlu, C. and Çatav, S.S. (2012) Seed size explains within-population variability in post-fire germination of Cistus salviifolius . Annales Botanici Fennici 49, 331340.
Tébar, F.J., Gil, L. and Llorens, L. (1997) Reproductive biology of Helianthemum apenninum (L.) Mill. and H. caput-felis Boiss. (Cistaceae) from Mallorca (Balearic Island, Spain). Acta Botanica Malacitana 22, 5363.
Thanos, C.A. and Georghiou, K. (1988) Ecophysiology of fire-stimulated seed germination in Cistus incanus ssp. creticus (L.) Heywood and C. salvifolius L. Plant, Cell and Environment 11, 841849.
Thanos, C.A. and Skordilis, A. (1987) The effects of light, temperature and osmotic stress on the germination of Pinus halepensis and Pinus brutia seeds. Seed Science and Technology 15, 163174.
Thanos, C.A., Georghiou, K., Kadis, C. and Pantazi, C. (1992) Cistaceae: a plant family with hard seeds. Israel Journal of Botany 41, 251263.
Trabaud, L. (1994) Post-fire plant community dynamics in the Mediterranean Basin. pp. 115 in Moreno, J.M.; Oechel, W.C. (Eds) The role of fire in Mediterranean-type ecosystems. New York, Springer-Verlag.
Venable, D.L. (1985) The evolutionary ecology of seed heteromorphism. The American Naturalist 126, 577595.
Venable, L.D. and Brown, J.S. (1988) The selective interactions of dispersal, dormancy, and seed size as adaptions for reducing risk in variable environments. The American Naturalist 131, 360384.
Vilagrosa, A., Hernández, E.I., Luis, V.C., Cochard, H. and Pausas, J.G. (2014) Physiological differences explain the co-existence of different regeneration strategies in Mediterranean ecosystems. New Phytologist 201, 12771288.
Westoby, M., Leishman, M. and Lord, J. (1996) Comparative ecology of seed size and dispersal. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B 351, 13091318.
Willson, M.F. (1983) Plant reproductive ecology. New York, John Wiley & Sons.
Wilson, T.B. and Witkowski, E.T.F. (1998) Water requirements for germination and early seedling establishment in four African savanna woody plant species. Journal of Arid Environments 38, 541550.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Seed Science Research
  • ISSN: 0960-2585
  • EISSN: 1475-2735
  • URL: /core/journals/seed-science-research
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed