Germination and establishment in Willamette Valley native prairie plants Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/5d86p291z

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  • Native plants provide many ecosystem services while also having great beauty and are a valuable component of the landscape. As use of these plants in habitat restoration, agricultural insectary plantings, and home landscapes increases so does demand for information on the basic biology of a group of species that have only been sparingly studied. Germination is one of the first major events in a plant’s life cycle and can be affected by both the physiological state of the seed and the environment the seed is in. Seeds can become dormant and may require some environmental signal for germination. I conducted a series of germination trials on a set of Willamette Valley native prairie plants to test whether cold stratification or various scarification treatments can be used to break seed dormancy. I used each species’ responses to classify the dormancy type of each species. The environmental conditions that the seed experiences also affect germination. The effect of temperature on germination was studied using a temperature gradient table. Seeds were tested to characterize species based on the temperature range at which its seeds can germinate. Germination in some species was bounded within clearly defined temperature limits, while germination in others occurred over the full range of studied temperatures. The germination data were modeled with linear regression to create standard estimates for the physiological limits of each species to allow for comparisons between the species. After seeds germinate the initial stages of establishment can have great implications on the survival of the plant. A greenhouse experiment was conducted to study the competitive interactions of six of the species. Plants were grown together in pots for 90 days and biomass collected. The mean competitive effect and competitive response of each species was calculated and the results were regressed against each species' values for several physiological traits that were available from the literature. The experiment found that species with higher relative growth rates had greater competitive effects on other species. The first two experiments measured physiological traits of several Oregon native species. The third demonstrated the utility of standardized traits in predicting ecological behavior. This trait based approach has great potential as a tool for comparing ecological similarities and differences across different ecosystems and different species pools.
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