Abstract Detail

Extreme conservation measures for plants at the extremes in the Hawaiian archipelago model system

Wolkis, Dustin [1], Walsh, Seana [2], Barnes, Chris [3], Rønsted, Nina [4].

Seed viability in Hawai‘i’s foundational ʻōhi‘a trees linked to locality and  environmental variables.

Climate can play a critical role in plant physiological processes at all life stages, but investigations into climate effects often focus on only adult life stages. Environmental variables that affect seed development may be especially important in understanding plant community structure and how that may change in response to climate change. Climate can influence seed development and germination, which can in turn strongly affect community dynamics. Native Hawaiian Metrosideros spp. (Myrtaceae; ʻōhi‘a,; 13 taxa) are the most dominant and ecologically important trees in mesic and wet rainforest ecosystems of Hawaiʻi. Additionally, ʻōhi‘a are the most bioculturally important native plant in Hawai‘i. Recently, new fungal pathogens were identified as the cause of rapid ʻōhi‘a mortality and has colloquially been termed rapid ʻōhi‘a death (ROD). As ʻōhi‘a are foundational species, ROD threatens the native forests that compose the majority of intact Hawaiian ecosystems. Using initial seed viability data from germination experiments routinely conducted by National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Seed Laboratory, we asked if seed viability was correlated with collection locality and environmental variables. We included seed viability data of the most widespread and common taxon, M. polymorpha var. glaberrima, from 86 collection sites across Kauaʻi Island. In order to identify locality and environmental variables at each collection site, 88 environmental raster datasets specific to Hawaiʻi were downloaded from the Online Climate Atlas of Hawaiʻi and values extracted to collection sites. Correlation of seed viability with environmental data was explored using linear models in R. Preliminary results indicate initial seed viability is correlated with mean temperature of coldest quarter and precipitation of warmest quarter reflecting complex topology of Kauaʻi. As ROD threatensʻōhi‘a across the islands, knowledge of these climatic effects on seed germination can be used as a proxy for understanding the health of populations across the distribution range and at its extremes. These results, combined with future climate change projections, could also be used to help predict possible changes to forest structure across the island in the future. Linking seed viability information with environmental variables and locality can further help inform conservation priority planning as well as guide seed collection for safeguarding in seed banks. Until now, over 6.4 million ʻōhi‘a seeds have been stored in NTBGs Seed Bank.  This study also highlights the opportunity for taking advantage of well curated collection and seed viability data for addressing topical questions and challenges in biology and conservation science.

1 - National Tropical Botanical Garden, Science & Conservation, 3530 Papalina Rd, Kalaheo, HI, 96741, United States
2 - National Tropical Botanical Garden, Science And Conservation, 3530 Papalina Road, Kalaheo, HI, 96741, United States
3 - University of Copenhagen, GLOBE Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
4 - National Tropical Botanical Garden, 3530 Papalina Road, Kalaheo, HI, 96741, United States

conservation collection
ex situ conservation
plant physiology
seed bank
Seed Biology.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Session: COL05, Extreme conservation measures for plants at the extremes in the Hawaiian archipelago model system
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
Time: 4:00 PM
Number: COL05012
Abstract ID:212
Candidate for Awards:Physiological Section Physiological Section Li-COR Prize,Physiological Section Best Paper Presentation

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