Ecological Studies of the Endangered Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides. II. Patterns of Seedling Emergence and Survival in a Native Grassland Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The emergence, survival and growth of seedlings of the endangered Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides F.Muell. were followed in a Themeda triandra grassland during 1991 and 1992. The effect of summer irrigation on seedling survival was also investigated. Seedling emergence occurred in both years within 2 weeks of the 'autumn break' when soil moisture rose above 20%. Ninety percent of emergence was observed within 4 weeks of the onset of germination and 87% of seedlings were within 20 cm of an established plant. No emergence was observed after 8 weeks. Thirteen percent of the 1991 cohort survived for 14 months. Mortality of most seedlings (63%) was attributed to soil moisture stress in summer. Small seedlings (Ͱ4 3 leaves) were no more susceptible to drought than larger seedlings. Seventy two percent of the 1991 cohort produced four leaves before subsequently dying. In 1992, however, most early seedling mortality was amongst cotyledonary seedlings. No seedlings flowered in their first year. Above-ground growth was slow and by 14 months, 60% of surviving seedlings had seven or fewer live leaves. Irrigation in a year of below-average rainfall had no significant effect on the survival and growth of seedlings. This suggests that seedling recruitment is not restricted to climatically favourable years (i.e. is not episodic) but rather, is potentially on-going provided suitable microsites are available for seedling survival.

publication date

  • 1995