Investigating seed tolerance to dehydration

Not all plant seeds can survive dehydration, but how widespread is the trait?

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 4,200,000 species occurrences
Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)

Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) by Idris Abdul Haris. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.

Being able to tolerate dehydration is a crucial seed trait in plant regeneration, however, some species are more sensitive than others, and previous estimates based on seed banks tend to favour tolerant species and thereby underestimate proportion of desiccation-sensitive species.

In this study, researchers use a combination of models based on either shared taxonomy or habitat, to generate a non-biased estimate of the percentage of sensitive species. The taxanomic-based model used data from the Kew’s Seed Information Database, while the habit-based model was based on GBIF-mediated occurrences.

Depending on statistical calculation type, the first model estimated between seven and 20 per cent desiccation-sensitive species, while the results from the model based on habitats suggested approximately eight per cent of species. Overall, the evidence suggested that the latter is the best estimate.

The study also identified the magnoliids as having the highest proportion of desiccation-sensitive species, including nutmeg, bay laurel and some magnolias.

Wyse SV and Dickie JB (2017) Predicting the global incidence of seed desiccation sensitivity. Journal of Ecology. Wiley-Blackwell. Available at: