Abstract Detail

Conservation Biology

Finch, Jessamine [1], Hays, Chloe [2], LoCascio, George [3], Piantedosi, Michael [4].

Impact of maternal plant environment, population size, seed maturity, and maternal provisioning on ex situ seed bank longevity of a coastal endemic over 30+ years.

While seed banking has been employed for safeguarding agricultural germplasm for hundreds of years, these approaches only gained popularity in conservation of wild plant species in the 1990s. Results from crop and accelerated seed ageing studies suggest that seeds can survive for hundreds of years under dry, frozen conditions (15% RH, -18°C). However, seed biology of wild species is highly variable, and the seed bank longevity of many taxa of conservation concern have not been evaluated. Capitalizing on over two decades of seed collection of the federally listed coastal endemic sandplain agalinis (Agalinis acuta Pennell) in coastal New England we tested the hypothesis that time since seed collection (i.e., length of time in seed bank) would be negatively correlated with seed viability (n=23, 1989-2013). We assessed viability using germination trials on nutrient-less water agar; all collections received 12 weeks of cold, moist stratification (5°C), followed by incubation at 20/10°C (12/12h light/dark) for 4 weeks. Average final germination across collections ranged from 30-97%, but did not exhibit a consistent relationship with collection year. In fact, one accession from 1989 germinated to 80% while some more recent accessions germinated significantly less. In an attempt to explain the observed variation in germination responses, we obtained or collected additional data on the maternal plant environment, the size of the source population, seed maturity at the time of collection, and maternal seed provisioning. Climate data was obtained according to collection year for each accession using the nearest weather station to the source population (NOAA). Seed coat color was quantified for 30 randomly selected seeds from each accession using the Munsell color system to provide a proxy for seed maturity at time of collection (from light brown while immature to dark brown or black at maturity). Average seed mass was calculated to quantify maternal provisioning for each accession based on five lots of 100 randomly selected seeds. Results of this multilayered analysis will improve our understanding of the relative impact of abiotic factors prior to and following seed collection on ultimate seed bank longevity and germinability over decades. Future work will investigate the potential of optimal seed collection timing (year & maturity), as well as tailored post-collection processing and priming, to improve the maintained viability of seed bank collections.

1 - Native Plant Trust, Conservation, 180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, MA, 01701, United States
2 - Framingham State University, Biology, 100 State Street, Framingham, MA, 01701-9101, United States
3 - Mount Wachusett Community College, 444 Green St, Gardner, MA, 01440, USA
4 - Native Plant Trust, 180 Hemenway Road, Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA, 01701, United States

endemic flora
seed banking
ex situ living collection
seed viability test
Seed germination
maternal effects.

Presentation Type: Poster
Number: PCB011
Abstract ID:752
Candidate for Awards:None

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