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Canopy seed storage in woody plants

Lamont, B.B., Maitre, D.C., Cowling, R.M. and Enright, N.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505 (1991) Canopy seed storage in woody plants. The Botanical Review, 57 (4). pp. 277-317.

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The retention of seeds in the plant canopy for one to 30 years or more is termed serotiny. It is well represented floristically and physiognomically in fire-prone, nutrient-poor and seasonally-dry sclerophyll vegetation in Australia, and to a lesser extent, South Africa followed by North America. While the seed-storing structures vary greatly, all will release their propagules following exposure to the heat of a fire (pyriscence). This phenomenon can be contrasted with seed release at maturity (non-storage) and soil storage of seeds. Although the evolutionary requirements for serotiny are clear, its adaptive advantages over other seed storage syndromes are largely the subject of conjecture in the absence of comparative experiments. Nine hypotheses were assessed here. Canopy storage maximises the quantity of seeds available for the next post-fire generation (unlike non-storage). Synchronized post-fire release satiates post-dispersal granivores (unlike non-storage and soil storage) and ensures arrival on a seed bed conducive to seedling recruitment (unlike non-storage). Canopy stored seeds are better insulated from the heat of a fire than non-stored, and probably soil-stored, seeds. Fluctuating annual seed crops, the opportunity for post-fire wind-dispersal, the possible advantages of dense stands of adults, short lifespan of the dispersed seeds and their optimal location in the soil for germination have only a limited role in explaining the advantages of serotiny. It is concluded that canopy seed storage is favoured in regions where seed production is restricted and inter-fire establishment and maturation are unlikely. In addition, these regions have a reliable seasonal rainfall and are subjected to intense fires at intervals occurring within the reproductive lifespan of the species.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Springer Pub. Co.
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