THE (SOMETIMES) FORGOTTEN ROLE OF SEEDS IN ECOLOGY
Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Contact: Mark Ooi, firstname.lastname@example.org
The life-history processes surrounding seeds are arguably the most important drivers of population persistence in many natural ecosystems around the world. To fully understand plant population dynamics, we therefore need to develop a clear picture of the contribution seed-related processes make. However, there is still a surprising lack of understanding of many of the fundamental factors surrounding seed ecology – and it appears that the role of seeds are at times forgotten. I will present studies investigating both theoretical and applied ecological questions, which highlight the importance of seeds in determining outcomes. This will include examples ranging from modelling species’ extinction risk under future climates, to studies addressing the stress-gradient hypothesis and the role of nurse plants. The importance of ecological understanding to applied science will also be discussed. Here, it is not seeds that have been overlooked, as they are the focus of large-scale conservation efforts particularly in ex situ initiatives; but it is often the role of the ecological conditions from where the species have originated from that is the forgotten element. When trying to develop protocols for utilising seeds held in ex situ collections, ignoring the role that ecological processes play can have negative impacts on both the practical approach used and the costs associated with conservation.