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Re-establishment of Native Plants by Seed Germination

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3158 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Re-establishment of Native Plants by Seed Germination in the State of Kuwait

1.1 Desertification

Desertification and land degradation has become a matter of increasing importance both locally and globally. Due to heat fluctuations produced by climate change, arid and semi-arid areas are becoming easily susceptible and prone to desertification (Kassas, 1995). Conservation of natural desert habitats should be a priority for environmental agencies and governments especially in arid regions of the world (Stringer, 2008). Water scarcity is one of the factors provoking an increase of vegetation in arid climates, which can lead to land degradation and desertification (Dhief et al., 2009). The term ‘desertification’ is used in diverse ways in the literature (Stringer, 2008). For this paper, it refers to land degradation in relation to loss of plant species diversity as well as loss of soil resources (Brown, 2003). The primary factor in the degradation of deserts is low rainfall, not to mention the huge impact on the desert’s biodiversity from human activities such as camping, car racing or rallying (Brown et al., 2001), and unsupervised grazing by sheep and camels as well as the rapid increase of human population (Whitford, 2006).

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1.2 Climate change and plant restoration

Climate change is a global issue which is still rising and damaging our environment. Global warming is mainly caused and exacerbated by human influences and activities. Plant restoration is one way to reduce the effect of climate change (Dosery et al., 2012). Arid regions of the world are being effected by climate change the most. The issue of desertification primarily affects areas with less vegetation similar to those in desert areas (Hanafi et al., 2008) Restoration of plants to their natural habitats in arid climates with pressures from grazing and overpopulation is challenging. One way to vegetate these areas is germinating seeds of native species in lab condition to be transplanted in the desert.

Plant restoration is a slow process, especially in ecosystems with unfavorable environmental conditions such as low rainfall, high evaporation rates and poor soil composition, precisely the conditions which are found in desert ecosystems (Bolling et al., 2000). Because seedbanks of desert plants can lie dormant for long periods of time, and can later germinate under favorable conditions (Brown et al., 2003) which can be replicated in lab facilities.

1.3 Seed germination and plant growth

Seed germination is a process in which the seed emerges from dormancy and grows into a new plant. This occurs when environmental conditions are favourable including temperature, soil composition and water, (Derbel et al., 2007). This process is used to promote and establish plant seedlings for various desert species, which can contribute to increasing plant population for instance in arid and semi-arid climates. According to research on desert plants, temperature is one of the most important factors promoting seed germination, also it plays a big role in plant growth. Indeed, the optimal temperature for seed to germinate is usually close to the average temperature in the species’ natural habitat (Derbel et al., 2010). Knowledge of the life history, ecology and natural habitat of native species is important for a successful plant reestablishments. The most important part of the plant cycle is seed germination (Derbel et al.,2007).

Scarification is a botanical term which refers to the process by which the coat of the seeds is opened, and it can be undertaken mechanically or chemically.

Seed germination depends primarily on the level of moisture in the environment and temperature (El-Keblawy, Abdelfattah & Khedr, 2015). This paper will examine seed germination treatment in the context of three different factors. The first is temperature: if the temperature is too high then the seed which has been planted for germination will die (Gorai, Laajili, Santiago & Neffati, 2015). Low temperatures can also impact seed germination. The second factor which impacts seed germination is scarification of the seeds. The third factor relating to the pre-treatment of seeds for germination is soaking in water. It is important to soak the seeds in water prior to planting to give them the best chance of germinating (Gorai, Laajili, Santiago & Neffati, 2015).

1.4 Use of peat moss for plant production

Using peat moss to promote seed germination implies the use of stratification, which is a moist, cold treatment: this does not apply to desert plants, since they are mostly promoted by temperature and scarification[ES1]. It is reported that peat moss has growth-promoting substances, including antibiotics and oestrogens (Cox & Westing, 2013).

1.5 Study area (add refrences)

Kuwait is a small country located in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula, with a total area of 17,820 km2 and a human population of 4.3 million. Kuwait borders Iraq (north) and Saudi Arabia (west and south), while the east of the country lies at the tip of the Persian Gulf, reaching its highest elevation above sea level at 280 m (Brown & Al-Mazrooei, 2003).  The climate of Kuwait is considered an arid climate, with summer temperatures ranging from 35-50° C. Summer lasts from May to September, with the hottest temperatures occurring from June to August. Winters are dry and cool with mean temperatures ranging from 6-20° C. Rainfall varies from year to year, with an average documented rainfall of 120mm (Halwagy et al., 1982). On average, evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation on a yearly basis (Halwagy & Halwagy, 1974a).

1.6 The vegetation and soils of Kuwait

The vegetation cover of Kuwait is less than 10 % (Brown, 2001). The dominant plant of Kuwait isRhanterium epapposum. There has been no documentation of native trees found in the deserts of Kuwait, while only one tree (6al7a) has been recorded as a native tree and protected in nature reserves (Brown & Al-Mazrooei, 2003). Soil texture and composition is an important factor for plant regeneration in desert climates. The primary soil characteristics to be considered in seed germination are soil texture, depth, permeability, penetrability and fertility (Batanouny, 1990). Sandy alkaline soils are dominant in the deserts of Kuwait, and these have low water retention, which is a disadvantage for seed germination (Johns et al., 1984). However, rainfall on sandy soils can be more effective for seed germination than on clay soils (Carbon, 1975).

1.7 Native plants

Calligonum comosum

Calligonum is a genus of perennial shrubs from the Polygonaceae family. One of the striking features of the species is that it is covered with numerous bristled fruits, which are easily carried by the wind, thus avoiding burial in the sand. The Latin genus name comes from the Greek words callus (beautiful) and gonos (knee), and reflects the original shape of the twigs as they link to one another (Gouja, Garnatje, Hidalgo, Neffati, Raies & Garcia, 2015).

Calligonum comosum is a native plant to the state of Kuwait. It is a perennial shrub which grows up to 2m tall with a crown ranging from 1-2.5m. Its leaves are simple and green. The  flowering season runs from March to April, with the red flowers attracting birds. The most widespread use of this plant is to stabilise sand dunes and wind breaks, but it also fixes soil to provide protein for livestock, provides wood for fuel and burns without smoke. It is one of the most common plants used to fight desertification and is usually employed along with other native plants for rehabilitation purposes. The most critical stage for this plant is seed germination and seedling stabilisation (Qu et al., 2008). It is prone to heavy grazing since it is a major source of food for camels, as well as goats and sheep (fact sheet). The active ingredients include tannins contained within the green branches of Calligonum. The fruits are edible, and taste similar to an apple. The economic significance of these shrubs is very high. Their young branches and fruits, with a pleasantly sour taste, are readily eaten by sheep and camels. In winter, the sheep eat fallen twigs and fruit from the ground. The nutritional value of these products is rather high in conventional feed units. The timber produced by this tree is dense and heavy (it sinks in water), and the pink kernel is a good building material in the desert environment. The wood is also used as fuel for various crafts. Finally, Calligonum is excellent fixative of sand and is used for reclamation in areas of mobile sand. The plant can form new side (adventitious) roots at the base of the stalks after backfilling them with sand (El-Keblawy, Abdelfattah & Khedr, 2015).

Farsetia Aegyptia

This is a perennial shrub that grows in coarse sandy soil, reaching a height of up to 60 cm. Its leaves are succulent and linear, its blooming season is from March to June, and it has greenish-brown flowers. The fruit has a winged seed. This plant has no documented or official publications (Farsetia aegyptia – Overview – Encyclopedia of Life, 2017).

Rhanterium epapposum

This is the national plant of Kuwait, and the most dominant plant found in the country’s deserts. This bush grows up to 1m tall, has small narrow leaves which fall in late spring, and becomes dormant during the summer season. Its flowering season is from March to May, with small yellow flowers. For this plant to germinate, the capitulum must be facing upwards, with the achene still attached to the capitulum. Seeds can be viable for more than 4 years (Ahmed, Al-Dousari and Al-Dousari, 2016), and the plant is mainly used for skin infections and for fuel in remote areas.

Calligonum comosum, which does not require a lot of water to grow and tends to grow in areas with low rainfall (Gouja, Garnatje, Hidalgo, Neffati, Raies & Garcia, 2015); Rhanterium epapposum, which is bushy and is produced naturally as well as with the help of vegetation[ES2]; and Farsetia aegyptia which is also used to combat desertification with the assistance of seed germination.

The main objective of this study is to determine why seed germination is important and under what conditions it can take place. The study will discuss how seed germination occurs under different conditions and the factors which affect it. Three desert plants will be used in the  seed germination experiment

The aim of this study is to induce seed germination using chemical treatments such as gibberellic acid in two different concentrations (ppm) and physical scarification treatment with two different intensity levels. The second part of the study will investigate four different ratios of peat moss to sand to measure plant growth of seedlings of three desert species in Kuwait.

This study will contribute to increasing vegetation in arid and semi-arid areas such as Kuwait, and explore the conditions in which seed germination can take place, including environmental conditions and appropriate temperature (Gouja, Garnatje, Hidalgo, Neffati, Raies & Garcia, 2015). As we know, the more plants are grown, the more we can protect our environment. Seed germination is one process for producing plants by artificial methods, which would participate in desert revegetation by transplanting native species back in their natural habitat.

Seed germination experiment

Three plants will be investigated in this study: Calligonum comosum, Rhanterium epapposum and Farsetia aegyptia. Ten seeds from each species will undergo two seed germination treatments, each with two different intensities. First is a physical treatment in the form of scarification using sand paper, with two different intensities of scarification. Second is a chemical treatment using two different concentrations of gibberellic acid (GA3). All treatments will be undertaken in the same environment and temperature conditions. The experiment will be replicated three times.

Figure 1


Plant growth with peat moss

For this experiment, seedlings from three species will be tested in five soil mixtures with different sand to peat moss ratios. A block of 15 seedlings, each with a different soil mixture (5 soil mixtures for each species) will be replicated 5 times (Figure 2).  Environmental factors such as temperature, soil moisture and pH will be measured for analysis.

[ES3]Figure 2

A large data set will be collected over a period of 4-6 weeks, and daily logs will be completed for the final data analysis. Statistical data analysis using ANOVA will be applied to both experiments to compare the percentage of growth in different soil mixtures. As well as comparing seed germination percentages for four different treatments, ArcGIS software will be used to provide maps for this study if necessary.

  • Petri dishes, paper filters and labels
  • Sand paper
  • Gibberellic acid (GA3).
  • Native plant seeds (available at PAAFR*)
  • Native plant seedlings (available at PAAFR*)
  • 10cm plastic planting pots (75) (available at PAAFR*)
  • Soil (peat moss and sand) (available at PAAFR*)
  • Access to seed lab facility either at PAAFR* or KISR* (access fees may be applicabl


For this study, safety precautions will be taken mostly when using seed lab facilities.

Access lab safety check list

  • Lab coat
  • Long trousers
  • Closed toe shoes
  • Safety glasses
  • Use of gloves

Since this study will be done off campus, some expenses may apply, this is just a provisional budget plan

  • Plane tickets (round trip from Aberdeen to Kuwait) (300 £)
  • All materials mentioned previously might be available for use with no charge
  • Onetime payment for seed lab access of 50 £
  • Petrol fees maybe applicable once experiment location is determined around 100 £ if the experiment is done over a period of six weeks.


Bolling, J. and Walker, L. (2000). Plant and soil recovery along a series of abandoned desert roads. Journal of Arid Environments, 46(1), pp.1-24.

Brown, G. (2003) ‘Factors maintaining plant diversity in degraded areas of northern Kuwait’, Journal of Arid Environments, 54(1), pp. 183-194.

Brown, G. and Al-Mazrooei, S. (2003). Rapid vegetation regeneration in a seriously degraded Rhanterium epapposum community in northern Kuwait after 4 years of protection. Journal of Environmental Management, 68(4), pp.387-395.

Brown, G. and Schoknecht, N. (2001) ‘Off-road vehicles and vegetation patterning in a degraded desert ecosystem in Kuwait’, Journal of Arid Environments, 49(2), pp. 413-427.

Derbel, S. and Chaieb, M. (2007). Germination behaviour and seedling establishment of two desert shrubs,Calligonum polygonoides(Polygonaceae) andSpartidium saharae(Fabaceae), under experimental conditions. Acta Botanica Gallica, 154(4), pp.533-544.

Derbel, S., Touzard, B., Triki, M. and Chaieb, M. (2010). Seed germination responses of the Saharan plant species Ephedra alata ssp. alenda to fungicide seed treatments in the laboratory and the field. Flora – Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants, 205(7), pp.471-474.

Dhief, A., Gorai, M., Aschi-Smiti, S. and Neffati, M. (2009) ‘Comparative phenological and water potential patterns of three Calligonum species in the eastern great Erg of Tunisia’, Flora – Morphology, Distribution, Functional Ecology of Plants, 204(8), pp. 581-592. doi: 10.1016/j.flora.2008.07.007.

Dosery, N.A., Mathew, M., Suresh, N. and Al-Menaie, H.S. (2012) ‘Kuwait’s agricultural efforts to mitigate climate change’, Energy Procedia, 18, pp. 1441-1445

Hanafi, A. and Jauffret, S. (2008). Are long-term vegetation dynamics useful in monitoring and assessing desertification processes in the arid steppe, southern Tunisia. Journal of Arid Environments, 72(4), pp.557-572.

Kassas, M. (1995). Desertification: a general review. Journal of Arid Environments, 30(2), pp.115-128.

Stringer, L. (2008). Reviewing the International Year of Deserts and Desertification 2006: What contribution towards combating global desertification and implementing the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification? Journal of Arid Environments, [online] 72(11), pp.2065-2074. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140196308001742 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2017].

Whitford, W. (2006). Ecology of desert systems. 1st ed. San Diego: Academic Press, pp.275-304.

[ES1]This sentence wasn’t very clear – please read and check it and let me know if you think I’ve accidentally changed the meaning!

[ES2]Not quite sure what you mean by ‘with the help of vegetation’?

[ES3]I would change the title of the Figure to: Illustration showing different ratios of sand to peat for three different species


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