Geographical variation in predictive seedling emergence in a perennial desert grass

Steven E. Smith, Emily Riley, John L. Tiss, Debra M. Fendenheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


1. Mechanisms that link germination and emergence to environmental cues associated with seedling success (predictive germination) would be expected to evolve when seedlings have a greater mortality risk than seeds, but may be less important in perennial plants than in annual plants. 2. We investigated variation in predictive seedling emergence among divergent populations of a short-lived perennial desert grass, Digitaria californica, from sites that differed in climatic and edaphic factors. This species is native to environments in which the amount and duration of adequate soil moisture may control germination and seedling establishment success. 3. We utilized a special irrigation system that permits application of a range of amounts of water within a single experiment in a glasshouse. Emergence data were subjected to probit and survival analyses to describe differences among the populations in response to applied water. 4. Significant variation in predictive emergence was shown to exist among populations of D. californica when measured as amount of water required for 50% emergence following 3 days of water application, or as time required to achieve this level of emergence. Both climatic and soil characteristics were important with populations that originated from sites with less summer precipitation, and soils with higher water-holding capacity tended to have lower water requirements for emergence. 5. The report demonstrates the existence of subtle variation in predictive emergence among populations of a perennial grass representing a relatively narrow range of ecological amplitude. It also establishes the usefulness of line-source irrigation and probit analysis procedures in studying seedling emergence behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-149
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Germination
  • Line-source irrigation
  • Probit analysis
  • Survival analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Geographical variation in predictive seedling emergence in a perennial desert grass'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this