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Using semi-natural and simulated habitats for seed germination ecology
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  • Simon Kallow,
  • Katrijn Quaghebeur,
  • Bart Panis,
  • Steven Janssens,
  • John B. Dickie,
  • Lavernee Gueco,
  • Rony Swennen,
  • Filip Vandelook
Simon Kallow
KU Leuven Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
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Katrijn Quaghebeur
KU Leuven Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
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Bart Panis
Catholic University College Leuven
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Steven Janssens
Botanic Garden Meise
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John B. Dickie
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
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Lavernee Gueco
University of the Philippines Los Banos
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Rony Swennen
KU Leuven Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
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Filip Vandelook
Botanic Garden Meise
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Abstract

1. Ecologically meaningful seed germination experiments are constrained by access to seeds and relevant environments for testing at the same time. This is particularly the case when research is carried out far from the native area of the studied species. 2. Here, we demonstrate an alternative - the use of glass houses in botanic gardens as simulated-natural habitats to extend the ecological interpretation of germination studies. Our focal taxa were banana crop wild relatives (Musa acuminata subsp. burmannica, M. acuminata subsp. siamea and M. balbisiana), native to tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia. Tests were carried out in Belgium, where we performed germination tests in relation to exposure to sun and foliage-shading, seed burial-depth in different heated glass house compartments, as well as seed survival and dormancy release in the soil. We anchored the interpretation of these studies by also conducting an experiment in a semi-natural habitat in the species native range (M. balbisiana - Los Baños, the Philippines), where we tested germination responses to exposure to the sun and shade. Using temperature data loggers, we determined temperature dynamics suitable for germination in both these settings. 3. In semi-natural and simulated-natural habitats, seeds germinated in response to exposure to direct solar radiation. Seed burial-depth had a significant but marginal effect by comparison, even when seeds were buried to 7cm in the soil. Temperatures at sun-exposed compared to shaded environments differed by only a few degrees Celsius. Maximum temperature of the period prior to germination was the most significant contributor to germination responses and germination increased linearly above a threshold of 23°C to the maximum temperature in the soil (in simulated natural habitats) of 35°C. 4. Glass houses can provide useful environments to aid interpretation of seed germination responses to environmental niches.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

12 Jul 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
13 Jul 2021Submission Checks Completed
13 Jul 2021Assigned to Editor
15 Jul 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
08 Aug 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
10 Aug 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
19 Aug 20211st Revision Received
20 Aug 2021Submission Checks Completed
20 Aug 2021Assigned to Editor
20 Aug 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
23 Aug 2021Editorial Decision: Accept