By Stephanie Frischie
In August 2016, Seed Ecology V was held in Caeté, Brazil. The International Society for Seed Science is the organization behind this conference, which is held every 3 years. Locally, the meeting was organized and hosted by the Botany Department of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, led by Chair Fernando A. O. Silveira and Vice Chair Queila Garcia.
It was an all-around excellent conference experience.
There were about 100 participants, a nice size for a conference because you don’t have to miss any presentations and you can meet, talk and interact with most anyone and everyone. Plus the location at the Tauá resort was extremely convenient and comfortable offering further opportunities for discussion and conversation during the delicious meals of famous Minas food.
Three days of talks were organized to include the following keynote speakers and sessions:
• Peter Poschlod - Seed bank dynamics: what we know now and some future challenges
• Carol Baskin - Evolutionary aspects of dormancy at the whole-seed/embryo level: many unanswered questions
• Soizig Le Stradic - Importance of seed ecology to restore tropical grasslands
• Filip Vandelook - Seed evolution in response to climate change
• Alexander V Christianini - The relative role of birds and ants in seed dispersal and plant regeneration
• Diego Batlla - Environmental control of dormancy in weed seed banks: predicting temporal patterns of weed emergence
The winners of the Baskin Student Awards were Samantha-Leigh Jamison, University of Pretoria, for her presentation “Is seed dispersal by avian frugivores a broad-scale determinant of bird-dispersed tree diversity?” and Malaka Wijayasinghe, University of Pavia/NASSTEC, for his poster “Improving seed viability in storage of species from different alpine grasslands”.
Music and dancing throughout - from the welcome dinner to the closing celebration -added a special Brazilian touch. Even during the conference, hit pop songs played between sessions kept the energy high.
Minas Gerais loosely translates as “General Mines” and the region has produced precious metals, gems and iron ore for centuries, with activity continuing to the present. Such a history and extent of disturbance means there is a need for post-mining restoration and much work to be done in terms of policy, regulations and activity. Mid-conference field trips to the Italcolmi State Park and the town of Ouro Preto highlighted the vegetation and history of the region. Seed dormancy and dispersal were favorite topics on the trail.
Following the conference, about 20 participants traveled on a magnificent 4-day trip throughout the Serra do Espinhaço range to see campo rupestre, cerrado forest and Atlantic forest. Campo rupestre is an ancient system with plants adapted to the low-nutrient soils and dry winter seasons. As researchers learn more about the ecology and regeneration of this natural community, results can be used to guide restoration after extreme wildfires or mining.