Bet hedging in desert winter annual plants: Optimal germination strategies in a variable environment

Jennifer R. Gremer, David L Venable

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

103 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In bet hedging, organisms sacrifice short-term success to reduce the long-term variance in success. Delayed germination is the classic example of bet hedging, in which a fraction of seeds remain dormant as a hedge against the risk of complete reproductive failure. Here, we investigate the adaptive nature of delayed germination as a bet hedging strategy using long-term demographic data on Sonoran Desert winter annual plants. Using stochastic population models, we estimate fitness as a function of delayed germination and identify evolutionarily stable strategies for 12 abundant species in the community. Results indicate that delayed germination meets the criteria as a bet hedging strategy for all species. Density-dependent models, but not density-independent ones, predicted optimal germination strategies that correspond remarkably well with observed patterns. By incorporating naturally occurring variation in seed and seedling dynamics, our results present a rigorous test of bet hedging theory within the relevant environmental context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-387
Number of pages8
JournalEcology Letters
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Fingerprint

bet-hedging
annual plant
deserts
germination
desert
winter
seed
evolutionarily stable strategy
Sonoran Desert
seeds
fitness
demographic statistics
seedling
seedlings
organisms
testing

Keywords

  • Bet hedging
  • Delayed germination
  • Density dependence
  • Desert annuals
  • Evolutionarily stable strategies
  • Population dynamic models
  • Seed bank

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Bet hedging in desert winter annual plants : Optimal germination strategies in a variable environment. / Gremer, Jennifer R.; Venable, David L.

In: Ecology Letters, Vol. 17, No. 3, 2014, p. 380-387.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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