Spore Banks of Monilophyta and Lycophyta: a Review


  • Luciano Mauricio Esteves Instituto de Botânica; Núcleo de Pesquisa em Palinologia




The spores of ferns and lycophytes may be deposited on the soil, and by various mechanisms, they can be moved down into and through the soil, although usually remaining in the superficial layers. They may persist in the soil for some time in a dormant state, and when brought back to the surface they will germinate. Such living spores stored in the soil comprise what is called a soil spore bank. Spore banks can reduce the risk of extinction of species, allowing the regeneration of a population in an area devastated by floods, fires, droughts, landslides or succession processes. Thus, they have a function similar to that of seed banks in spermatophytes. In the majority of ferns and lycophytes the spores are positively photoblastic. This has adaptive value since it makes them dormant when buried and potentially able to germinate when brought to the surface. The regeneration of persistent spore banks can also increase the possibilities of crossing between gametophytes of colonizing species. They also function as a buffer against the consequences of low spore production in years with adverse weather conditions, and against drastic changes in the genetic composition during fluctuations in population size, such that only long-term changes in the environment can substantially alter its composition. Moreover, genotypes that were apparently lost can be recovered from the spore bank.





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