2024 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Seedy Behavior in Slickspots: Breaking Dormancy and Increasing Germination in a Rare Endemic Plant

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Sven Buerki


2 in 5 plant species are currently facing extinction. This threat of extinction is caused by many factors such as habitat loss, fragmentation, and loss of genetic diversity. When populations decline, loss of genetic diversity puts species at an adaptive disadvantage. To preserve what genetic diversity is left in plant species we need to begin harvesting seeds now from extant populations to fortify our ability to maintain populations as the threat of extinction grows. This goal is most important in fragile ecosystems and for organisms that are currently understudied. Slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum, is a rare and threatened mustard endemic to southwestern Idaho. Within sagebrush-steppe habitat, L. papilliferum is limited to microsites known as “slick spots”, which are areas characterized by their high levels of clay and salt as well as by soil water retention that is higher than that of surrounding areas. Our project aims to understand the special requirements necessary for seed dormancy breaking as well as best methods for seed germination. We also aim to understand how seed storage and freezing affects viability over long periods of time. This research will aid in the future re-establishment of this rare endemic plant.

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