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Germination ecology of Haloxylon salicornicum from Kuwait

Germination ecology of Haloxylon salicornicum from Kuwait

Botanische Jahrbuecher fuer Systematik Pflanzengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie 123(2): 235-247, 31 Juli

In this study, the germination characteristics of the dwarf shrub Haloxylon salicornicum (Chenopodiaceae) from Kuwait are examined. This species is an important constituent of the Haloxylon salicornicum community that would naturally dominate over wide tracts of northern Arabia and beyond. In recent decades, the community has suffered severe degradation in northern Arabia, mainly as a result of overgrazing. Studies were conducted to provide baseline data on germination characteristics, and as a basis to assess the potential for natural regeneration. Seeds of Haloxylon germinate profusely under a range of laboratory conditions, with optimum temperatures for germination below 20degreeC. In contrast, high temperatures (above 30degreeC) severely inhibited germination. Exposure of seeds to high temperatures, such as those that regularly occur on the desert surface during the late spring to autumn months (50degreeC), very soon led therefore to a substantial decrease in germinability. The highest proportion of seedlings emerged from seeds located on or near the surface, and the greatest depth from which seedlings emerged was 2 cm. Haloxylon seeds germinated at reasonably high NaCl concentrations, but germination was distinctly inhibited above 200 mM. This appears to be primarily a result of the low water potentials generated by such high salt concentrations, rather than the direct effects of salt toxicity itself. It is concluded that germination of Haloxylon seeds is not problematic, and that in the context of possible regeneration programmes for the Haloxylon salicornicum community, attention needs to be focused on seedling establishment under different environmental conditions, particularly with respect to soil characteristics and rainfall patterns.

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