Seed dormancy in space and time: global distribution, paleoclimatic and present climatic drivers, and evolutionary adaptations

Yazhou Zhang, Yuan Liu, Lu Sun, Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin, Min Cao, Jie Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Seed dormancy is an important life history state that increases survival and fitness of seed plants, and thus it has attracted much attention. However, global biogeography, effects of paleoenvironment, evolutionary roles of dormancy transitions, and differences in adaptations of seed dormancy between life-forms are poorly understood. We compiled global distribution records for seed dormancy of 12 743 species and their phylogeny to explore the biogeographic patterns, environmental drivers, and evolutionary transitions between seed dormancy and nondormancy. Biogeographic patterns reveal a low proportion of dormancy in tropical rainforest regions and arctic regions and a high proportion of dormancy in remaining tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions for all species and woody species. Herbaceous plants show a greater proportion of dormancy in most global regions except arctic regions. Seasonal environments have a consistent positive influence on the dormancy pattern for both life-forms, but precipitation and temperature were important driving factors for woody and herbaceous plants, respectively. Seed dormancy was the dominating state during the evolutionary history of seed plants, and dormancy transitions had a significant relationship with paleotemperatures. Dormancy and nondormancy transitions in response to fluctuating environments during long-term evolutionary history may have played important roles in the diversification of seed plants. Our results add to the current knowledge about seed dormancy from macro-adaptive perspectives and the potential adaptive mechanisms of seed plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1770-1781
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB31000000), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31800353, 32061123003), Yunnan Fundamental Research Projects (202101AV070005), Yunnan High Level Talents Special Support Plan (YNWR‐QNBJ‐2018‐309), the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y202080), the West Light Foundation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Funded by Postdoctoral Fellowship of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, CAS, the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species, Kunming Institute of Botany, and the Tropical Germplasm Bank of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botany Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. We are grateful to Dr Yunyun He for figure design.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2022 New Phytologist Foundation.


  • biogeographic pattern
  • environmental cues
  • paleotemperature
  • seed dormancy
  • trait transition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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