Germination at extreme temperatures: implications for alpine shrub encroachment

Susanna E. Venn*, Rachael V. Gallagher, Adrienne B. Nicotra

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)
    7 Downloads (Pure)


    Worldwide, shrub cover is increasing across alpine and tundra landscapes in response to warming ambient temperatures and declines in snowpack. With a changing climate, shrub encroachment may rely on recruitment from seed occurring outside of the optimum temperature range. We used a temperature gradient plate in order to determine the germination niche of 14 alpine shrub species. We then related the range in laboratory germination temperatures of each species to long-term average temperature conditions at: (1) the location of the seed accession site and (2) across each species geographic distribution. Seven of the species failed to germinate sufficiently to be included in the analyses. For the other species, the germination niche was broad, spanning a range in temperatures of up to 17 C, despite very low germination rates in some species. Temperatures associated with the highest germination percentages were all above the range of temperatures present at each specific seed accession site. Optimum germination temperatures were consistently within or higher than the range of maximum temperatures modelled across the species’ geographic distribution. Our results indicate that while some shrub species germinate well at high temperatures, others are apparently constrained by an inherent seed dormancy. Shrub encroachment in alpine areas will likely depend on conditions that affect seed germination at the microsite-scale, despite overall conditions becoming more suitable for shrubs at high elevations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number327
    Number of pages9
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Germination niche
    • Temperature gradient plate
    • Climate extremes
    • Conservation manage-ment
    • Climate warming
    • Species geographic range
    • Australia


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