Investigations on seed biology and ecology are of major importance for the conservation of threatened plants, both providing baseline information and suggesting practical approaches. In our study, we focused on the germination behavior of Silene hicesiae Brullo & Signor., a narrow endemic species to Panarea and Alicudi (Aeolian Archipelago, Italy), as well as one of the 50 most threatened Mediterranean island plants. Specifically, the effects of temperature, light, seed age, seed source, and collection year were evaluated; in addition, threshold temperatures and thermal-time parameters were estimated. The thermal range for fresh seed germination resulted between 5 and 15 & DEG;C, reaching up to 20 and 25 & DEG;C at increasing seed age, with 30 & DEG;C being clearly beyond the ceiling temperature. This behavior indicates that fresh seeds exhibit the Type 1 non-deep physiological dormancy, and that germination is regulated by conditional dormancy. This dormancy syndrome emerged as a highly efficient adaptation strategy for this species and, together with thermo-inhibition, would allow seeds to counteract or take advantage of Mediterranean environmental conditions. The comparison between the wild Panarea population and the corresponding ex situ cultivated progeny has enabled the identification of the latter as a suitable seed source for sustainable in situ reinforcement actions, at least in the short-term; indeed, plant cultivation for a single generation did not produce significant modifications in the germination behavior of the offspring.
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