Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Biology

Advisor's Name

Suzanne Koptur

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

Bradley C. Bennett

Advisor's Name

Krish Jayachandran

Advisor's Name

Joyce Maschiniski

Advisor's Name

Jennifer H. Richards

Keywords

Seed dispersal, hydrochory, Everglades, functional traits, seedbank, germination assay, sawgrass, community assembly rules

Date of Defense

11-10-2009

Abstract

In this study three aspects of sexual reproduction in Everglades plants were examined to more clearly understand seed dispersal and the allocation of resources to sexual reproduction— spatial dispersal process, temporal dispersal of seeds (seedbank), and germination patterns in the dominant species, sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense). Community assembly rules for fruit dispersal were deduced by analysis of functional traits associated with this process. Seedbank ecology was investigated by monitoring emergence of germinants from sawgrass soil samples held under varying water depths to determine the fate of dispersed seeds. Fine-scale study of sawgrass fruits yielded information on contributions to variation in sexually produced propagules in this species, which primarily reproduces vegetatively. It was hypothesized that Everglades plants possess a set of functional traits that enhance diaspore dispersal. To test this, 14 traits were evaluated among 51 species by factor analysis. The factorial plot of this analysis generated groups of related traits, with four suites of traits forming dispersal syndromes. Hydrochory traits were categorized by buoyancy and appendages enhancing buoyancy. Anemochory traits were categorized by diaspore size and appendages enhancing air movement. Epizoochory traits were categorized by diaspore size, buoyancy, and appendages allowing for attachment. Endozoochory traits were categorized by diaspore size, buoyancy, and appendages aiding diaspore presentation. These patterns/trends of functional trait organization also represent dispersal community assembly rules. Seeds dispersed by hydrochory were hypothesized to be caught most often in the edge of the north side of sawgrass patches. Patterns of germination and dispersal mode of all hydrochorous macrophytes with propagules in the seedbank were elucidated by germination analysis from 90 soil samples collected from 10 sawgrass patches. Mean site seed density was 486 seeds/m2 from 13 species. Most seeds collected at the north side of patches and significantly in the outer one meter of the patch edge (p = 0.013). Sawgrass seed germination was hypothesized to vary by site, among individual plants, and within different locations of a plant’s infructescence. An analysis of sawgrass fruits with nested ANOVAs found that collection site and interaction of site x individual plant significantly affect germination ability, seed viability, and fruit size (p < 0.050). Fruit location within a plant’s infructescence did not significantly affect germination. As for allocation of resources to sexual reproduction, only 17.9% of sawgrass seeds germinated and only 4.8% of ungerminated seeds with fleshy endosperm were presumed viable, but dormant. Collectively, only 22% of all sawgrass seeds produced were viable.

Comments

Joel C. Trexler is the 6th Advisor on the committee.

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