Fire cue effects on seed germination of six species of northwestern Patagonian grasslands
- Laboratorio Ecotono, Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones en Biodiversidad y Medioambiente, CONICET-Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Quintral 1250 (8400), Bariloche, Argentina
Abstract. Postfire recruitment of seedlings has been attributed to a stimulation of germination by fire-related cues. The germination response to heat shock (80 °C – 5 min), smoke (60 min), the combination of both factors and no heat no smoke (control) was studied in six native species (two dominant grasses, two dominant shrubs and two annual fugitive herbs) of northwestern Patagonian grasslands. Seeds of the grasses Festuca pallescens and Stipa speciosa and the shrub Senecio bracteolatus (Asteraceae) germinated when they were exposed to heat shock, whereas seeds of the other shrub, Mulinum spinosum (Apiaceae), were killed by this fire cue. In grasses, probably the glume of caryopsis protected embryos from heat. Possibly, the seed size could explain the different responses of the two shrubs. Heat combined with smoke reduced seed germination for S. speciosa and S. bracteolatus. The heat could have scarified seeds and the longer exposure to smoke could have been toxic for embryos. The same treatment increased germination of the annual fugitive herb Boopis gracilis (Calyceraceae). We concluded that fire differentially affects the seedling recruitment of the studied species in the northwestern Patagonian grasslands.