The Effects of parental CO2 environment on seed quality and subsequent seedling performance in Bromus rubens

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Seeds were collected and compared from parent plants of Bromus rubens L. (Poaceae), an exotic Mojave Desert annual grass, grown in ambient (360 μmol mol−1) and elevated (700 μmol mol−1) CO2 to determine if parental CO2 growth conditions affected seed quality. Performance of seeds developed on the above plants was evaluated to determine the influence of parental CO2 growth conditions on germination, growth rate, and leaf production. Seeds of B. rubens developed on parents grown in elevated CO2 had a larger pericarp surface area, higher C:N ratio, and less total mass than ambient-developed seeds. Parental CO2 environment did not have an effect on germination percentage or mean germination time, as determined by radicle emergence. Seedlings from elevated-CO2-developed seeds had a reduced relative growth rate and achieved smaller final mass over the same growth period. Elevated-CO2-developed seeds had smaller seed reserves than ambient seeds, as determined by growing seedlings in sterile media and monitoring senescence. It appears that increased seed C:N ratios associated with plants grown under elevated CO2 may have a major effect on seed quality (morphology, nutrition) and seedling performance (e.g., growth rate and leaf production). Since the invasive success of B. rubens is primarily due to its ability to rapidly germinate, increase leaf area and maintain a relatively high growth rate compared to native annuals and perennial grasses, reductions in seed quality and seedling performance in elevated CO2 may have significant impacts on future community composition in the Mojave Desert.


Desert Ecology | Plant Biology