Seed and Germination Traits and Restoration

Functional traits are important predictors of how plant communities will assemble and function, influencing the ecosystem services these communities provide. The vast majority of studies linking functional traits to community assembly use vegetative plant traits of mature life stages, like plant height and specific leaf area, to predict community outcomes. Regenerative traits, like seed and germination traits are vital to understanding assembly and persistence of plant communities; however, they are surprisingly understudied relative to traits of mature plants. Understanding the factors governing germination, emergence, and establishment may be especially important in restored plant communities, as most—especially those in highly degraded systems—are started from seed, as well as to conservation projects that rely on seed or seedling introductions. We are studying how seed and germination traits contribute to plant community diversity in local tallgrass prairie and woodland systems. We are also studying the factors that govern germination in the charismatic (and locally imperiled) lesser prairie fringed orchid, Platanthera psycodes. (Barak, Hernandez, Schiafo).