Peroni, P. A. (Department of Biology, Box 7118, Davidson College, NC 28035). Spatial environmental variation affects seed survival and germination in artificial seed banks in a Silene latifolia (Caryophyllaceae) metapopulation. J. Torrey Bot. Soc. 139: 290-298. 2012.—This study was conducted to determine the effects of time and spatial environmental heterogeneity on the survival and germination of artificial Silene latifolia (Caryophyllaceae) seed banks. Replicate packets of Silene latifolia seeds were buried at depths of 5 cm at five randomly selected locations at each of two sites located within a southwestern Virginia metapopulation. Samples of seeds from each site and location within site were exhumed periodically over a 3.5 yr period and examined for germination during burial. Seeds that had remained intact during burial were placed into growth chamber germination trials. Thirty-six to 59% of seeds remained intact (i.e., not germinated) and viable at the end of the 3.5 yr period. Germination during burial represented the primary avenue of loss from the seed bank and varied significantly among locations within sites for the 2.5 and 3.5 yr exhumations, and between sites at the 3.5 yr exhumation. The results suggest that appreciable proportions of buried Silene latifolia seeds are able to remain intact, but viable in the study environments over a 3.5 yr period. Germination during burial accounted for most losses from the seed bank, and varied significantly among locations within sites, which suggests that the ability of Silene latifolia seed banks in this metapopulation to serve as demographic buffers for local populations may be highly dependent on local environmental factors. Spatial environmental variation in seed bank persistence could contribute to the development or maintenance of genetic structuring within both local populations and the metapopulation.
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