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Seed Rain, Seedling Establishment and Clonal Growth Strategies on a Glacier Foreland

Jürg Stöcklin and Esther Bäumler
Journal of Vegetation Science
Vol. 7, No. 1 (Feb., 1996), pp. 45-56
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3236415
Page Count: 12
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Seed Rain, Seedling Establishment and Clonal Growth Strategies on a Glacier Foreland
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Abstract

Seed production, composition of the seed rain, germination, and seedling mortality, as well as vegetative growth characteristics of common pioneer plant species were studied on the foreland of the retreating Morteratsch glacier in the Swiss Alps. The frequency of diaspores trapped in different successional stages was related to their dispersal mode and was highly skewed towards a few species. Plenty of diaspores well adapted for dispersal by wind are a precondition for the most important pioneer species. Seeds from all pioneer species investigated had a good germination success, provided that the moisture content of the soil was high enough. However, requirement for seedling establishment differed among sites of increasing terrain age and among species. Only specialized pioneers such as Cerastium pedunculatum, Linaria alpina, Oxyria digyna and Saxifraga aizoides tolerate the cold and moist conditions near the glacier. However, these species are restricted to early successional stages. Seedlings of Epilobium fleischeri are affected not only by the cold and moist conditions near the glacier but also by moderately dry conditions on older sites. Availability of safe sites becomes crucial for most species with increasing age of sites and with drier conditions. Most species playing a dominant role during early succession and persisting during later successional stages have a distinctive ability to spread clonally and have a growth form with more or less widely spaced ramets: Achillea moschata, Cerastium pedunculatum, Epilobium fleischeri and Hieracium staticifolium. The growth strategy and demography of the clonal E. fleischeri is presented as an example. The life cycle of this species is characterized in succession by (1) the colonization of safe sites by small seeds adapted for wind dispersal, (2) horizontal spread by clonal growth, and (3) the persistence through phenotypic morphological plasticity in later successional stages. Seedling establishment and clonal growth are thus complementary mechanisms in plant succession on recently deglaciated terrain.

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