Environmental tolerance of a species has been shown to correlate positively with its geographical range. On the Ordos Plateau, three Caragana species are distributed sequentially along the precipitation gradient. We hypothesized that this geographical distribution pattern is related to environmental tolerances of the three Caragana species during seed germination and seedling emergence stages. To test this hypothesis, we examined seed germination under different temperature, light and water potentials, and monitored seedling emergence for seeds buried at eight sand depths and given different amounts of water. Seeds of C. korshinskii germinated to high percentages at 5 : 15 to 25 : 35 °C in both light and darkness, while those of C. intermedia and C. microphylla did so only at 15 : 25 and 25 : 35 °C, respectively. Nearly 30 % of the C. korshinskii seeds germinated at -1.4 MPa at 20 and 25 °C, while no seeds of the other two species did so. Under the same treatments, seedling emergence percentages of C. korshinskii were higher than those of the other two species. The rank order of tolerance to drought and sand burial of the three species is C. korshinskii > C. intermedia > C. microphylla. The amount of precipitation and sand burial depth appear to be the main selective forces responsible for the geographical distribution of these species.

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Published in AoB Plants, v. 7, article plv071, p. 1-9.

© The Authors 2015.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/),which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41330749 and 41401105).

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