USA — TSCOTTSVILLE, South Africa, — South African scientists say chemicals in smoke from forest fires may regulate seed germination and play a key role in the rebirth of burned landscape.
The researchers, led by Johannes Van Staden of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Scottsville, South Africa, identified both plant growth promoters and inhibitors in smoke.
The scientists previously discovered a chemical compound in smoke from burning plants that promotes seed germination. Such seeds, which remain buried on forest and meadow floors after fires have been extinguished, are responsible for the surprisingly rapid re-growth of fire-devastated landscapes.
In their new research, the scientists said they discovered an inhibitor compound that might block the action of the stimulator, preventing germination of seeds. They suspect both compounds might be part of a natural regulatory system for repopulating fire-ravaged landscapes.
The scientists said the interaction of those and other compounds may ensure seeds remain dormant until environmental conditions are best for germination. The inhibitor thus may delay germination of seeds until moisture and temperature are right, and then take a back seat to the germination promoter in smoke.
The study appears in the American Chemical Society Journal of Natural Products.