Some of you may know that one of my (Marnie Light’s) favourite topics of research is related to the effects of plant-derived smoke on seed germination. In November last year, I attended a ‘special session’ on smoke ecology at the 6th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress organised by the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE). The special session was hosted by Dr Mary Lata, who arranged the programme for the special session. It was fantastic to have an entire session dedicated to this topic, and a great opportunity for me to meet Prof. Jon Keeley (USA) and Prof. Mark Ooi (Australia), as well as several other researchers in the field.
Following some discussion with the organisers and the Editor-in-Chief of the South African Journal of Botany, it was decided to run a special issue on ‘Smoke Ecology and Applications of Plant-Derived Smoke‘ in the journal. The aim of this is to highlight some of the research presented at the AFE congress, as well as to publish articles on related topics.
We are inviting anyone who has carried out research relating to the effects of plant-derived smoke on seed germination or plant growth (smoke ecology/technology) to submit their manuscripts for inclusion in this special issue.
Introduction to our ‘Guest Blog’ below (by Marnie Light)
Through some connections to our blog, it was suggest that we ask Dr Patricia Holmes to give us some information on a project that she has been involved in on the restoration of areas of fynbos in the Cape Floristic Region that have been invaded by alien (non-native) species. While this perhaps is not specifically related to ‘forest seed research’, there are certainly aspects of this study that are pertinent to many of our fellow researchers. We hope you find this guest blog interesting!
Guest Blog by Patricia Holmes (Biophysical Specialist, Biodiversity Management Branch, Environmental Resource Management Department, City of Cape Town, South Africa)
Seed ecology research improves restoration potential
in alien-invaded fynbos of the Cape Floristic Region global biodiversity hotspot
The Blaauwberg Nature Reserve spans 1500 ha of irreplaceable lowland habitat within the City of Cape Town Municipality, South Africa. All three vegetation types present are nationally threatened and under-conserved. One of these, Cape Flats Sand Fynbos, occurs on nutrient-poor, acid sands and is one of the most transformed and poorly conserved vegetation types in the country. It also supports 16 endemic plant species and over 80 IUCN-listed as threatened with extinction. Unfortunately, fynbos in the reserve has long been invaded and degraded by the Australian tree species, Acacia saligna, and is a top conservation priority to restore.
Fynbos, like Australian kwongan, is a species-rich, Mediterranean-climate and fire-driven shrubland with a very high proportion of obligate re-seeding species. Many species depend on canopy or soil-stored persistent seed banks for recruitment after fire. However, invading alien tree species out-compete the fynbos and the seed banks are no longer replenished between fires. The restoration potential, therefore, depends on the size and diversity of the residual persistent seed bank in the soil. Species with canopy seed storage, such as proteas, are among the first to be eliminated following dense alien tree invasion.
Earlier research in Sand Fynbos, as well as current research at Blaauwberg (the latter funded by Arcadia through the Millenium Seed Bank Partnership, Kew), have indicated that soil-stored seed banks are indeed highly depleted and that active restoration, in the form of species re-introduction by seed, is required post-alien clearance. Sources of seed for important functional components of the vegetation are in short supply and it is imperative to optimize restoration success through an improved understanding of the required pre-sowing treatments to break dormancy and promote germination and establishment. Current research has focussed on applying fire-related germination cues in the growth chamber, nursery and also in field trials. Some species were found to be stimulated by heat pulse alone (or in combination with smoke), smoke, scarification and diurnal temperature fluctuations for various durations. Application of appropriate pre-treatments to species prior to sowing in the field is showing positive results and demonstrates the importance of seed research in ecological restoration.
For more information on The Centre for Invasion Biology, Stellenbosch University, which is the research partner hosting the students involved in the project, click here.
We would like to invite you to attend a conference on ‘Tree seeds – Ecology, physiology and technology’, which we plan to hold in the United Kingdom in 2016 (29th June – 1st July, 2016). There are four proposed themes:
SEED PESTS AND PATHOGENS
SEED ECOLOGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Please let us know if you would be interested in attending, and whether you would prefer to present a paper or poster. Details will follow once we have a better idea of the number of people that are interested in attending this conference (as this will affect where the conference can be held).
Please email Shelagh McCartan or Marnie Light by Friday 18th September so that we can start to plan the conference. We need a minimum of 30 delegates to make the conference worthwhile (financially and scientifically)!
We look forward to hearing from you and your colleagues.
The focus of Seed Ecology V, to be held in Brazil from 21-25 August 2016 (with an optional post-conference tour from 26-30 August), will be “Seeds in the Web of Life”. Seed Ecology conferences, promoted by the International Society for Seed Science, are international, thematic, scientific meetings devoted exclusively to Seeds and the Environment. These conferences are a great opportunity for seed biologists to gather and share their research findings and ideas.