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Free Content Germination capacity and seed storage behaviour of threatened metallophytes from the Katanga copper belt (D.R.Congo): implications for ex situ conservation

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Background and aims – Plant species adapted to metalliferous soil are of high conservation value, and actions for preserving these species (some of them are endemics) are urgent given the threat of mining activities. In the framework of an integrated conservation programme of cuprophytes (plants that tolerate a soil with a high level of copper) in Katanga (D. R. Congo), this study aims at: (1) providing new data on species whose germination has never been studied so far; (2) gaining new insight into the storage behaviour of these species; (3) discussing implications for ex situ conservation of these highly threatened species.

Methods – Germination tests were conducted on fresh seeds of nineteen species. These tests were repeated after 6, 12 and 24 months of storage in dry-cold conditions.

Key results – Most species kept or increased their germination capacity after 2 years storage in dry-cold conditions. Nine species showed a slight decrease in their viability (from 100% to > 80%) after 2 years storage in dry-cold conditions. The present study gives evidence that at least six of the 19 studied species are desiccation-tolerant (orthodox). Among these, two are strict endemics, Haumaniastrum robertii and Faroa malaissei, and two are broad endemics, Diplolophium marthozianum and Gladiolus robiliartianus. This means that ex situ seed banking of these species could form a useful part of a more comprehensive conservation strategy. Only two species have been identified as desiccation-sensitive (recalcitrant), i.e.inappropriate for conservation in standard seed bank conditions. An orthodox behaviour has not been ruled out for the other species tested, but their response was less clear and needs further investigation.
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Keywords: ENDANGERED SPECIES; ENDEMIC; HEAVY METALS; METALLOPHYTE; SEED BANKING; SEED VIABILITY

Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: 01 July 2013

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  • Plant Ecology and Evolution (a continuation of Belgian Journal of Botany, incorporating Systematics and Geography of Plants) is an international journal devoted to ecology, phylogenetics and systematics of all 'plant' groups in the traditional sense (including algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, myxomycetes), also covering related fields such as comparative and developmental morphology, conservation biology, ecophysiology, evolution, phytogeography, pollen and spores, population biology, and vegetation studies. It is published by the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium and the Botanic Garden Meise and contains original research papers, review articles, checklists, short communications and book reviews.

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