Germination requirements and seed mass of slow- And fastcolonizing temperate forest herbs along a latitudinal gradient

Bente J. Graae, Kris Verheyen, Annette Kolb, Sebastian Van Der Veken, Thilo Heinken, Olivier Chabrerie, Martin Diekmann, Karin Valtinat, Renate Zindel, Elisabeth Karlsson, Lotta Ström, Guillaume Decocq, Martin Hermy, Carol C. Baskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Predictions on displacement of suitable habitats due to climate change suggest that plant species wiüi poor colonization ability may be unable to move fast enough to match forecasted climate-induced changes in habitat distribution. However, studies on early Holocene plant migration show fast migration of many plant species that are poor colonizers today. We hypothesize that warmer temperatures during the early Holocene yielded higher seed quality, contributing to explaining the fast migration. We studied how the 3 seed quality variables, seed mass, germinability, and requirements for break of seed dormancy, vary for seeds of 11 forest herb species with varying colonization capacity collected along a 1400-km latitudinal gradient. Within species, seed mass showed a positive correlation with latitude, whereas germinability was more positively correlated with temperature (growing degree hours obtained at time of seed collection). Only slow-colonizing species increased germinability with temperature, whereas only fast-colonizing species increased germinability with latitude. These interactions were only detectable when analyzing germinability of the seeds, even though this trait and seed mass were correlated. The requirement for dormancy break did not correlate with latitude or temperature. The results indicate that seed development of slow colonizers may be favoured by a warmer climate, which in turn may be important for their migration capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-257
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Ancient forest
  • Climate change
  • Plant migration
  • Reid's paradox
  • Seed development
  • Seed dormancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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