Seed Germination and Seedling Growth Influenced by Genetic Features and Drought Tolerance in a Critically Endangered MapleDetuan Liu, Jiajun Yang, Lidan Tao, Yongpeng Ma, Weibang Sun
- Plant Science
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Understanding the adaptation of plant species will help us develop effective breeding programs, guide the collection of germplasm, and improve the success of population restoration projects for threatened species. Genetic features correlate with species adaptation. Acer yangbiense is a critically endangered plant species with extremely small populations (PSESP). However, no information was available on its seed germination and seedling growth in populations with different genetic characteristics. In this study, we investigated seed germination and compared the performance of 566 seedlings in 10 maternal half-sib families cultivated in Kunming Botanical Garden. The results showed that A. yangbiense seeds required an average of 44 days to start germinating, with a 50% germination rate estimated to take about 47–76 days, indicating slow and irregular germination. There is a trade-off between the growth and survival in A. yangbiense seedlings, with fast growth coming at the cost of low survival. Groups that were able to recover from a recent bottleneck consistently had higher relative growth rates. High genetic diversity and low levels of inbreeding are likely to be responsible for their improved survival during drought conditions and rapid growth under optimal environmental conditions. Our results suggest that maternal genetic traits might be used as indicators for conservation and population restoration. These findings provide us with new information that could be applied to support ex situ conservation and reintroduction of threatened species.