The effect of salinity level and extended exposure to different salinity and flooding conditions on germination patterns of three saltmarsh clonal growth plants (Juncus subulatus, Scirpus litoralis, and S. maritimus) was studied. Seed exposure to extended flooding and saline conditions significantly affected the outcome of the germination process in a different, though predictable, way for each species, after favorable conditions for germination were restored. Tolerance of the germination process was related to the average salinity level measured during the growth/germination season at sites where established individuals of each species dominated the species cover. No relationship was found between salinity tolerance of the germination process and seed response to extended exposure to flooding and salinity conditions. The salinity response was significantly related to the conditions prevailing in the habitats of the respective species during the unfavorable (nongrowth/nongermination) season. Our results indicate that changes in salinity and hydrology while seeds are dormant affect the outcome of the seed-bank response, even when conditions at germination are identical. Because these environmental-history-dependent responses differentially affect seed germination, seedling density, and probably sexual recruitment in the studied and related species, these influences should be considered for wetland restoration and management.
Additional publication details
Seed storage conditions change the germination pattern of clonal growth plants in Mediterranean salt marshes