The effect of smoke on seed germination: Global patterns and regional prospects for the Southern High Plains

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Smoke as a seed germination promoter has been well recognized in many countries. It was first discovered in a fire-prone area, but has since been studied and applied even in fire free areas. It has been proven to exist in endangered species, medical species, and crops, and it is especially well recognized as useful for post-mining restoration. In my thesis, I designed three studies to evaluate the possibility of using smoke to promote restoration in shortgrasss prairie. First, I conducted a meta-analysis of smoke tests from around the globe to detect common patterns of seed response to smoke. The results showed that certain taxonomic orders have a higher chance of responding to smoke application. It also indicated that the smoke response may be more associated with the evolution of species than with local adaption. Second, I tested the soil seed bank composition in the southern High Plains in shortgrass prairie. I observed a limited number of woody species seedlings, indicating a high potential for using soil seed banks in this region as a seed source for restoration. Third, I conducted an in-situ smoke water test. These final results showed that high concentration smoke water can promote the density of total germinants in field applications to soil seed banks. Overall, smoke appears likely to work as an in-situ treatment in shortgrass prairie to increase the density of total seedlings. However, with the relatively small numbers of grass species I observed in the soil seed banks, if the intention of restoration is to increase the biomass of the plant community, restoration via smoke-induced germination of seeds must increase the number of grass species.

Smoke, Soil seed banks, Meta-analysis, Southern High Plains