Indexed on: 19 Oct '17Published on: 19 Oct '17Published in: Plant, Cell & Environment
Seed characteristics are key components of plant fitness that are influenced by temperature in their maternal environment, and temperature will change with global warming. To study the effect of such temperature changes, Arabidopsis thaliana plants were grown to produce seeds along a uniquely designed polyethylene tunnel having a thermal gradient reflecting local global warming predictions. Plants therefore experienced the same variations in temperature and light conditions, but different mean temperatures. A range of seed related plant fitness estimates were measured. There were dramatic non-linear temperature effects on the germination behaviour in two contrasting ecotypes. Maternal temperatures lower than 15-16 (°) C resulted in significantly greater primary dormancy. In addition, the impact of nitrate in the growing media on dormancy was shown only by seeds produced below 15-16 (°) C. However, there were no consistent effects on seed yield, number or size. Effects on germination behaviour were shown to be a species characteristic responding to temperature and not time of year. Elevating temperature above this critical value during seed development has the potential to dramatically alter the timing of subsequent seed germination and the proportion entering the soil seed bank. This has potential consequences for the whole plant life cycle and species fitness.