Physiology and biochemistry of seeds in relation to germination

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  • Book review

    J. D. Bewley & M. Black. Physiology and Biochem- istry of Seeds in Relation to Germination. In two vols. No. 1: Development, germination, and growth. Corrected printing. 1983. XI + 306 pp., 122 figs. Springer. Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg-New York. ISBN 3-540-08274-3. Price DM97.-; approx. US $ 38.50.

    This book is a corrected printing of Vol. 1, first published in 1978. It is a comprehensive and critical account of the physiology and biochemistry of seed development, germination and early seedling growth. Each of the 7 chapters is followed by a list of general and specific references. A list of plants mentioned in the text, an author index and a sub- ject index are provided at the end of the book.

    Chapter 1 tells us how to define and measure germination. A seed is defined as germinated upon emergence of the radicle from the seedcoat, and I recommend this definition. The merits of several formulae devised for determining a numerical value of germination are analyzed.

    In Chapter 2 seed structure and amount, chemi- cal structure, histology and localization of food reserves in cells of gymnosperms and angiosperms are discussed.

    Chapter 3 discusses the development of seeds of angiosperms and gymnosperms (by the way, the only extant gymnosperms with motile sperm are Gingko and the cycads), storage and biosynthesis of reserves and roles of hormones in seed develop- ment. Ecologists studying carbon allocation in plants will find some of the information relevant to their research.

    Chapter 4 deals with water uptake by seeds. Wa-

    Vegetatio 57, 115-119 (1984). Dr W. Junk Publishers, Dordrecht. Printed in the Netherlands.

    ter uptake is determined by the physical properties and water content of the substrate and by factors inherent to the seed, including presence or absence of mucilage in the seedcoat, topography of the seedcoat and size of the seed.

    Chapter 5 covers cellar processes of germination and growth, including respiration, development of mitochondrial activity and ATP synthesis, synthe- sis and utilization of NADH and NADPH and the mechanism of DNA, RNA and protein synthesis. (The biochemistry of dormancy per se is covered in Vol. 2 of this two-volume set.)

    Chapter 6 is on the post-germination mobiliza- tion phyte (of gymnosperms). Particular attention is given to the role of the aleurone layer in mobiliz- ing endosperm reserves of cereals, mobilization of reserves in mannan-containing seeds of legumes and the conversion of fatty acids to sugars via fl-ox- idation and the glycolate pathway. A section is included on the integration of the mobilization pro- cesses.

    Processes controlling the mobilization of re- serves is the subject of chapter 7. Considerable at- tention is given to the role of gibberellic acid (GA) in stimulating de novo synthesis of t~-amylase in the barley aleurone layer. However, GA also causes the release of several other enzymes from aleurone lay- ers. It is not yet clear how mobilization of reserves is regulated in non-cereal seeds.

    I suspect that seeds are not phylogenetically or habitat constrained at the biochemical level, just as they are not constrained at the whole seed level in dormancy mechanisms. Further, since seeds of spe- cies that are widely separated phylogenetically or that grow in different habitats show similarities in

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    dormancy mechanisms at the whole seed level, 'convergence' also is expected at the biochemical level. In Chapter 6, we learn that breakdown of reserves is more similar between endospermic le- gumes and cereals than between non-endospermic and endospermic legumes.

    Jerry M. Baskin, Lexington, Kentucky

    M. W. Dick & D. Edwards (eds), Contributions to Palaeobotany. A retirement tribute to Professor W. S. Lacey. 1983. X + 225 pp. Academic Press, Lon- don New York etc. (reprinted from Bot. J. Linn. Soc. Vol. 86). ISBN 0-12-215120-8. Price 9.60.

    For the study of fossil plants to be successful, palaeobotanists must extend their interest across the continuum between biology and geology. Pro- fessor William L. Lacey of the University College of North Wales, Bangor, realized this throughout his scientific career and also the outstanding collection of papers offered to him on his retirement clearly demonstrates the interdisciplinary status of modern palaeobotany. Following an appreciation of the man and his work by F. A. Hibbert, a dozen articles cover a selection of fundamental developments in the fields of Proterozoic, Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Caenozoic palaeobotany. The articles are written at research level but each one contains sufficient ex- planatory information to aid those who are not expert in the particular subject under investigation.

    In recent years the search for Proterozoic fila- mentous and coccoid microfossils has intensified throughout the world. On the basis of an Australian assemblage M. D. Muir demonstrates the potential of these remains in environmental analysis. Com- parable algal remains, surprisingly well preserved, are described in detail by D. S. Edwards and A. G. Lyon from the Scottish Rhynie Chert, a Devonian deposit since long famous for its record of early vascular plants. Together with the Silurian, the Devonian constitutes indeed one of the most chal- lenging periods for palaeobotanical research, the time when land plants proliferated and progressed from small free-sporing homosporous plants to seed-bearing plants. Four contributions based on material from Ireland and North America offer valuable new information on Cooksonia, consid- ered to be the earliest erect fertile land plant of

    possible pteridophyte affinity (D. Edwards, J. Fee- ban and D. G. Smith), on Baragwanathia (F. M. Hueber) and Haskinsia (J. D. Grierson and H. P. Banks), two genera of Devonian lycopodiophytes, as well as on Laceya(B. 1. May and L. C. Matten), a new genus of Devonian pteridosperms. In contrast to Silurian and Devonian palaeobotany, the study of Carboniferous plants is often characterized by an extreme abundance of material. Among the best- known fossil plants are certainly a number of taxa of Carboniferous arborescent lycopodiophytes. Yet, new and original contributions to our understand- ing of these plants can still be made as evidenced by the taxonomic reconsideration of Lepidostrobus (S. D. Brack-Hanes and B. A. Thomas) and the biometric approach to the problem of leaf and stem growth in the Lepidodendrales (W. G. Chaloner and B. Meyer-Berthaud). One of the most reward- ing topics of research in the Mesozoic is the study of the diversified Jurassic and Cretaceous gymno- sperms. On the basis of material from England and Africa, detailed new information became available on the pteridosperm Pachypteris (T. M. Harris) and the conifers Frenelopsis (J. Watson) and Pseu- dofrenelopsis (K. L. Alvin). To a large extent Cae- nozoic palaeobotany can make use of our knowl- edge on living floras and vegetation. Thus it is possible, even in the Tertiary, to provide realistic palaeoecological interpretations of plant-bearing sequences by means of direct references to modern environments. Such an approach is well exempli- fied by an elaborate study of palaeofloristic assemb- lages from the Oligocene of the Isle of Wight (M. E. Collinson).

    H. Visscher, Utrecht

    Postglacial dynamics of European vegetation

    B. Huntley & H. J. B. Birks. An Atlas of Past and Present Pollen Maps of Europe: 0 13 000 Years Ago. 1983. XIV +667 pp., plus 34 overlays, maps. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0- 521-23735-1. Price 85.00 (US $174.00).

    Pollen analysis is a source of information on the long-term dynamics of vegetation at the continental scale. Pollen data typically come from open ombro- trophic mires or from moderate-sized lakes, with

  • pollen 'source areas' ca 103 km 2 for most tree pollen types. During the last glacial and late glacial peri- ods (up to 10 000 years BP) much of Europe was treeless, and pollen analysis for these times yields more local, floristic information; pollen analysis also gives information on past land use by humans; pollen profiles from small basins within woodlands can record stand-scale (ca 0.1 ha) compositional changes. But perhaps most importantly, the Euro- pean pollen record for the postglacial is a record of long-term, regional changes in forest composition in response to climatic change, and the study of vegetation dynamics on this spatial and temporal scale requires a geographical perspective.

    'Pollen maps' were invented by L. von Post, the Swedish pioneer of pollen analysis, in the 1920s. W. Szafer in the 1930s introduced 'isopoll maps', iso- line maps of pollen percentages, and used them to illustrate the postglacial range-boundary exten- sions of Picea and Fagus in Poland. Isopoll maps are now widely used and are (more reliably) based on the independent chronology provided by radio- carbon dating. Huntley and Birks' work represents the most ambitious attempt so far to map vegeta- tion changes through successive millennia by means of isopoll maps. This book has its faults; but it is a landmark work in the history of pollen analysis.

    Huntley and Birks assembled over 400 published and unpublished pollen diagrams chosen to achieve as good geographic coverage as possible for broad- scale pollen mapping of Europe. Data were being added to the data base up to mid-1980; no new data were added thereafter. 'Europe' was taken to extend eastwards beyond 40 E, although the authors did not include all the Soviet data they might have in- cluded. The data are most sparse in some Balkan areas and the west Mediterranean area, although that is not the authors' fault. Rather surprisingly, Europe is also taken to include Greenland, al- though the data from Greenland are scarcely exten- sive enough for mapping. Isopoll maps are giv

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