Rangelands in the western United States exhibit extremely high temporal variability in seedbed microclimate, and this variability contributes to poor establishment of revegetation species that are typically planted in the fall. We conducted long-term simulations of cumulative germination as a function of planting date and identified alternative germination syndromes based on population-level responses to environmental variability. These germination syndromes reveal ecologically significant differences but also noteworthy similarities in species and seed lot response that can inform rangeland restoration planning and management. Seed germination may occur much sooner than assumed under the traditional paradigm of fall-planting/spring-emergence in the intermountain western United States, and seed germination per se does not appear to be a bottleneck for successful establishment in most years. Instead, simulations of germination response support recent hypotheses that postgermination/preemergent mortality may be the larger contributor to poor seedling establishment. Our data support two general strategies to improve the likelihood of seedling survival into the spring: seeding as late as possible in the fall and active diversification of germination syndromes within a given seed mix. Consistent application of these strategies could increase the probability that some seeds are always available to take advantage of any pulse of seedbed favorability in the late fall, winter, or early spring.
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Vol. 73 • No. 2