Regeneration ecology and seed biology

Germination and establishment are crucial phases in the life history of a plant species as they are usually associated with high mortality. During their evolution plant species have developed dormancy and germination characteristics that are adapted to the regional climate and the environmental conditions of their habitats. Natural selection has led to the development of specific germination syndromes and morphological and physiological adaptations of the plant embryo to the more or less variable availability of resources (light, water, nutrients). The most important factors influencing germination are temperature, light and the availability of water, the latter being particularly important in arid regions. In combination with dormancy (an endogenous factor) they govern the timing and the process of germination.

We are particularly interested in the temporal changes in seed dormancy levels; most species show seasonal variation. The survival during germinating primarily depends on the supply of water and light. After the resources that are stored in the seed have been depleted the availability of nutrients becomes the crucial factor. Our research deals with the effects of single environmental factors on germination and dormancy (e.g. fluctuating temperature), the identification and classification of local, regional and global germination strategies and the development and persistence of germination syndromes. Many of these investigations are not restricted to the species level, but extented to the individual- and population-level.

Concerning the embryonic stage we are primarily interested in the growth rate, root architecture and survival of species that originate from different habitats and have varying seed sizes. Hydrostatic pressure and the supply of nutrients are varied during the experiments.

Finally we investigate the characteristics of alpine seeds. One particular focus is a comparative study looking for trends and/or differences in diaspore size between alpine and non-alpine plants. Eventually we want to fathom the selective mechanisms responsible for these differences.

 

Projects

  • Mechanisms regulating seed dormancy - a comparative study
  • Seed characteristics in alpine habitats
  • Morphological plasticity and stress tolerance of plant embryos and seedlings
  • Bryum barnesii



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