Maternal environment and provenance effects on the longevity of Australian native seeds
“Being a keen outdoors buff helped me to discover seed biology! On one fateful bushwalk in early 2002 in the wild forests of Australia, I stumbled upon a beautiful flowering specimen that would later become the target species for my Honours project. Collecting the seeds was easy enough, but getting them to germinate was hard! And so the world of seed biology opened up to me, proving that seeds are complex little organisms which rarely do what you expect. Now I am still working with seeds, having completed an Honours project looking at dormancy characteristics of the Goodeniaceae family (The University of Queensland, UQ, Australia, 2002), having worked in developing new floricultural crops from species collected in the wild at the Centre for Native Floriculture (UQ, 2003-4) and more recently having completed my PhD thesis (UQ, 2004-8) in partnership with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.
My PhD project asked whether the environment in which a parent plant has grown will affect seed longevity of the seeds that are produced. Seed longevity tells us how long seeds will survive in ex situ seed banks, such as in the Millennium Seed Bank, but also in the wild within the soil. Therefore it is important for maintaining biodiversity. The species I targeted were Australian native herbaceous plants from the Campanulaceae, Plantaginaceae and Asteraceae families.
The major findings from my PhD were: evidence for a genetic basis for seed longevity for native Australian species and evidence, for the first time, that seed longevity can vary within a species as a result of the parental growth environment, both before and after flowering has occurred. These findings are new to science and are particularly relevant in the context of climate change, as ecologists grapple with understanding how individual species and populations will be affected by the novel environments and extremes that are predicted or have already begun.
An Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship (UQ) and research funding from the MSBP and UQ made this PhD project possible. The supervisory team consisted of Associate Professor Steve Adkins (SLCFS, UQ), Dr Kathryn Steadman (School of Pharmacy, UQ) and Dr Robin Probert (MSBP, UK).”
- Read about the work of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership in Australia
- Read about the Millennium Seed Bank's project on Maternal Environment and Provenance Effects on Seed Longevity
- Read about the Millennium Seed Bank's research project on Comparative Longevity of orthodox seeds
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