Maternal Environment and Provenance Effects on Seed Longevity (Project completed)

Plants growing in controlled greenhouse conditions in order to test environmental effects

This project is one of a series in the theme 'Climate and Reproductive Biology'.

Whilst we have shown that the rate of seed deterioration under a given set of storage conditions varies across species by at least two orders of magnitude, and that these differences are correlated with aspects of the climate of origin [comparative longevity (orthodox seeds)], little is understood about the effect of maternal environment on seed longevity and the extent to which seed longevity might vary amongst populations within a species.

Previous work in our laboratory has revealed significant but relatively small differences in seed longevity amongst populations of three contrasting species. In view of the potential significance of these findings for the prediction of seed viability of banked collections a more detailed investigation has now began in collaboration with the MSBP’s Queensland partners.

At the MSB, a study is being made of the variation in seed longevity within and across European species of Silene using MSB collections that have been held in storage for up to 30 years. At the University of Queensland, a PhD project has begun on the impacts that the maternal environment and provenance have on seed longevity in two wild endemic Australian species, the annual forbs Wahlenbergia tumidifructa P.J.Sm (Campanulaceae) and Plantago cunninghamii Decne. (Plantaginaceae). In this project seeds will be collected a) from stressed glasshouse grown plants b) at various locations (making up a number of provenances) and aged to determine whether provenance or maternal stress affect their intra-specific seed longevity. On a global scale, this research will provide seed conservationists with a greater understanding of wild seed population storage behaviour and will highlight the relevance or otherwise of existing longevity prediction models currently available. At a national level, it will further the understanding of the reproductive biology and physiology of Australian native plants.

Project Team

Project Leader: Probert, Robin

Seed Conservation Department

Krishan Mistry, Rose Newton, Robin Probert

Project Partners and Collaborators


University of Queensland

Murdoch University, Western Australia