Mass Loss as an Index of Seed Deterioration in a Terrestrial Environment

Deterioration of seeds due to weathering may affect the quantity and quality of food available for granivorous wildlife through time. Deterioration rates of seeds during field weathering in terrestrial environments largely are unknown, and the relationship between seed mass loss and loss of specific nutrients during weathering has not been tested. We documented losses of overall mass and masses of 7 nutrients in selected seeds during field weathering and tested the relationships between overall mass loss and loss of individual nutrients and between overall mass loss and seed water and fiber contents. Most seeds lost mass during weathering; seeds of cultivated species lost mass more rapidly than those of wild species. Fat, nitrogen-free extract (NFE), protein, and hemicellulose declined in most seeds with weathering as well. Overall mass loss in seeds was positively correlated with loss of fat, NFE, protein, ash, and water but was not related to seed water or fiber content. Mass loss generally appears to be a valid index of terrestrial seed deterioration. Rapid seed deterioration and/or germination may limit the usefulness of cultivated species in food plantings for granivorous wildlife.

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