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Am J Bot. 2000 Nov;87(11):1679-92.

Differential effects of four abiotic factors on the germination of salt marsh annuals.

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  • 1Pacific Estuarine Research Laboratory, San Diego State University, San Diego, California 92182-1870 USA.


Interspecific differences in responsiveness to temperature, photoperiod, soil salinity, and soil moisture confirm the hypothesis that abiotic factors differentially affect the germination of salt marsh plants. In growth chamber experiments, four of eight annual species responded to small differences in temperature or photoperiod. Increasing soil salinity decreased the final proportion of seeds germinating and slowed germination for each of the seven species tested. Higher soil moisture increased the proportion germinating of five species and germination speed of all seven species. Salinity and moisture interacted to affect the proportion germinating of five species and germination speed of all seven species. Although the abiotic factor with the largest effect on germination varied among species, more species responded to, and the magnitudes of the responses were larger for, soil salinity than for the other abiotic factors. These germination tests partially explained interspecific differences in the timing of germination in the field. Patterns of Hutchinsia procumbens, Lythrum hyssopifolium, Parapholis incurva, and possibly Lasthenia glabrata ssp. coulteri germination in response to a nonseasonal rainfall could be explained by their response to salinity, temperature, or photoperiod. Fine-scale differences in the timing of establishment within the typical germination window and spatial distributions along salinity and moisture gradients were not explained.

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