Seed pre-treatments of native species for optimal establishment in in-situ restoration programmes

ESR 10C - Laura López del Egido

About myself - I have always been interested in working on plant ecology with a view towards applying that science in conservation and restoration projects. Because of that, I became very interested in the NASSTEC project.I completed my Honours Degree in Biology at the University Autonoma de Barcelona. During the third year of my degree course I started my first internship at the Plant Physiology Department (UAB), in collaboration with the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics. My project was focused on the resistance of rice (Oryza sativa) and some species of clover (Trifolium spp.) to the heavy metal antimony in hydroponic cultures.After that, I started a second internship, at the James Hutton Institute (JHI), in Scotland with a focus on functional ecology of legumes and their symbionts.

Later on, as a research assistant, I worked mainly on wild and arable legumes, nitrogen fixation and bacterial diversity, but I also had the chance to collaborate in other projects, such as trialling priming treatments or using seeds as soil amendment.

During that time I joined a Master Research (MRes) combined programme of the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh and the JHI. This was dedicated to the study of wild and cropped legume species and the diversity of the bacteria they are associated with. The project involved germination and establishment of seeds and seedlings, culturing of bacteria and analysing the phylogenetic relationship among the bacteria types.


About my current project

The main objective of my project is to explore methods to improve and ascertain the re-establishment of wild plant species in damaged ecosystems by seed. The hypothesis is that by increasing stress tolerance of germination and seedling establishment by seed treatments re-introduction of plant species in their former habitats will be improved.

In order to achieve this objective four approaches will be taken:

1) The stress tolerance of representative alpine species, which will be used in in-situ restoration of alpine meadows, will be characterised;

2) The potential of commercial and experimental seed treatments, such as priming, to improve stress tolerance of those species will be studied;

3) The hypothesis that seed lots with higher stress tolerance will have an improved establishment in a damaged alpine meadow will be tested; and

4) Finally, molecular tools will be explored to determine if these tools can be used to determine the characteristics of native seed batches in relation to the requirements for restoration.

Overall, a range of tools from various disciplines will be used to gain an understanding of heterogeneity in seed quality, sensitivity to priming treatments, responses of germination and seedling establishment to stress factors and stress tolerance of seeds and seedlings.

Ecology, molecular biology and conservation have always been of my main interest. Therefore, I believe that this project will be a great opportunity for me to continue improving and developing my skills and knowledge in these fields.