Should I stay or should I go? Surviving variable environments through dormancy and dispersal

Bethany Nichols

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Seed dispersal and seed dormancy are considered survival traits for plants living in unfavourable conditions. The roles they play have been discussed for the last half century and many general models have been produced but due to their generalist nature, many of these models have been unable to explore the adaptive role of dispersal and dormancy in more complex environments. In this thesis, I aim to explore the roles of dispersal and dormancy in highly variable environments in four ways: (1) exploring adaptive site-specific dispersal, in habitats with sub-habitats that are have a similar average quality over time but differ in variability, using Aethionema arabicum as a model system, (2) discussing the long-distance dispersal and long-term dormancy strategy observed in many plant species, and how it is adaptive in environments with correlated variability with long periods of unfavourable sub-habitats, such as agricultural landscapes, (3) exploring dormancy and longevity as two evolutionary strategies that fulfil different purposes in variable environments, using empirical evidence collected from Aethionema arabicum, and (4) designing a model to describe the interaction between dormancy and dispersal of heteromorphic species in highly variable environments, using Aethionema arabicum as a model system. Understanding such strategies is key for generating impactful approaches to conservation and pest control, as well as understanding how species living in complex environments will be affected by environmental and land use changes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Jansen , Vincent A.A., Supervisor
  • Leubner, Gerhard, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 2021


  • Dormancy
  • Dispersal
  • Environmental change
  • Environmental behaviour
  • Models, Theoretical
  • seed dimorphism

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