Germination performance of congeneric Styrax species from the Cerrado sensu lato areas and their distribution pattern in different physiognomies
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When studying congeneric species, it is of reasonable importance to understand different ecophysiological performances which might determine the distribution of species in habitats with different natural resources. Styrax ferrugineus is exclusive and well adapted to the Brazilian Cerrado sensu stricto (s. str.); S. camporum is widely distributed in the Cerrado sensu lato (s.l.) areas, with young trees being observed at the edge of cerradao and other vegetation fragments; and S. pohlii occurs in permanently waterlogged soils of the Cerrado region, such as those of riparian forests. We tested the hypothesis that the higher the soil water content in the physiognomic gradient of the vegetation, the higher is the germination success of S. pohlii, but the lower is the germination success of S. ferrugineus. We also discuss whether gap conditions inside a cerradao fragment imply a high germination rates of seeds of S. camporum. Seeds from each of the three species were buried within nylon bags containing soil from the respective sites. Burial occurred in a Cerrado s. str., in understory and gap conditions of a cerradao, and in the understory of a riparian forest fragment, and lasted for 60, 120, 180 and 240 days, respectively, after the fruit dispersal time of each of the three species. After 60 days, a relationship was found showing that the percentage of germinated seeds diminished, and the percentage of damaged seeds increased as soil water content increased (Cerrado s. str. < cerradao gap < cerradao understory << riparian forest). S. camporum still showed viable seeds 60 days after burial (DAB), and germinated seeds 120 DAB, indicating that it needed a longer time to germinate, which might be associated to its thicker seed coat, in relation to the other two species. The germination performance of each of the three species was the same in the gap and understory conditions of the cerradao. The higher concentration of adult S. camporum plants at the edge of vegetation fragments is not related to a particular high germination performance and seedling establishment. (c) 2012 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.