The oldest living seeds found on Earth germinated after resting more than 30,000 years in Arctic soils. But in the humid tropics, seeds do not last. “A long-lived seed in the tropics is probably only a few decades old. This may not seem like much time, but it is critical to reestablish trees after deforestation and ensure species’ survival,” said Camilo Zalamea, post-doctoral fellow and lead author of a new paper in Ecology from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama.
Seeds of tropical pioneers, trees that reestablish a forest after logging, flood, drought or fire, need strategies to overcome the two challenges every seed faces: 1) stay alive until the right conditions to grow into a plant occur, and 2) avoid being eaten by predators and decayed by soil microbes.