Lepidium papilliferum is an ephemeral species that occupies "slick spot" microhabitats in the matrix of sagebrush steppe vegetation of the southwestern Snake River plains, Idaho, USA. We related population demographic data collected from 1993 to 1996 to on-site precipitation data on the Orchard Training Area west of Boise. We also carried out field seed-retrieval and in situ seed bank studies. We found that L. papilliferum has a dual life history strategy. A fraction of each cohort sets seed as summer annuals, while the remaining plants remain vegetative and potentially biennial. Surviving biennials flower and set seed along with the annual cohort of the following year. The switch to flowering as an annual appears to be based on threshold rosette size. Probability of survival to flowering was much lower for biennials than for annuals of the same cohort, but surviving biennials sometimes had enhanced seed production. The summer-dry environment of the Snake River plains combined with the slick spot habitat has apparently selected for a primarily summer annual life cycle for this species. Seeds were highly dormant at dispersal and were not responsive to dormancy-breaking cues. Those from a given cohort of L. papilliferum remained viable in the soil for at least 11 years. This persistent seed bank provides a buffer against extinction in sequences of years when seed production is low or absent. Estimated seed bank size varied from near zero for a heavily disturbed site that formerly supported the species to 18 viable seeds · dm−2 for an extant population in high-quality habitat. Management for population preservation for L. papilliferum should focus on protecting the seed bank from destruction caused by livestock trampling and other anthropogenic disturbances.
Meyer, Susan E.; Quinney, Dana; and Weaver, Jay
"A life history study of the Snake River plains endemic Lepidium papilliferum (Brassicaceae),"
Western North American Naturalist: Vol. 65
, Article 2.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol65/iss1/2