Publication of germination data for Austrian collections

Publication of germination data for Austrian collections

By the joint effort of all partners in this project, 597 Alpine species were collected and sent to the Millennium Seed Bank, to be archived. Out of this pool, the two Austrian partners collected 255 species in the European Eastern Alps.

Checking the seed germination success before archiving seeds in a seedbank, is a necessary step for a valuable conservation. Hence, a germination test was applied using the standard protocol of the Innsbruck Lab.

Some examples of seeds and seedlings of tested species from top left clockwise to bottom left: Seed of Silene exscapa; seedling of Silene exscapa; seeds of Leucanthemopsis alpina; seedling of Leucanthemopsis alpina; seedling of Minuartia sedoides; seeds of Minuartia sedoides; seedling of Poa alpina; seedling of Saxifraga cernua. Pictures were taken under a digital microscope; credit to Pernfuß B.
Fig. 1 of the publication showing the classifications of the species made in the study and numbers of species per class. For further information see the publication.

The results of these tests are pooled in a publication entitled “Pros and cons of using a standard protocol to test germination of alpine species”, which was published in “Plant Ecology”.

Find the open access article here:

Margreiter, V., Pagitz, K., Berg, C. et al. Pros and cons of using a standard protocol to test germination of alpine species. Plant Ecol 221, 1045–1067 (2020).

Three years of seed collection

Three years of seed collection

Three years after the establishment of the Alpine Seed Conservation and Research Network, it is time to take stock of these three seasons of seed collection. All the partners made a total of 687 collections, representing 597 different species, most of them endemic, endangered or/and protected. The initial goal of 500 species is reached!

Among these almost 600 species, “only” 206 are new to Millenium Seed Bank, but the recollection of the 391 species already present in the seed bank is also important. Having several batches of the same species in seed bank increase, of course, the number of seeds stored but also brings more genetic diversity.

Although the majority of the collections were made individually, they have also been moments of exchange between partners, especially during the project film shooting in Switzerland when we collected several species together.

Here are two collected species:

Berardia lanuginosa (Lam.) Fiori, 1904 (syn. Berardia subacaulis Vill. 1779)

The woolly berardia was described in 1779 under the name of Berardia subacaulis by Dominique Villars, French doctor and botanist (born very close to the Conservatoire Botanique National Alpin!). It is an herbaceous plant, of ancient origin, considered as relict of the subtropical flora which populated the Alps at the beginning of their formation. Belonging to the Asteraceae family (as dandelion and daisy), it has a large yellow flower head on a very short stem, surrounded by large oval leaves covered by a white-grey tomentum. It grows in full sun in the calcareous or siliceous earthy screes, between 1800 and 2600m.

The particular shape of its seed, with a crown of hard bristles, allows it to sink gradually into the soil taking advantage of the mechanical action of compaction/decompaction of the substrate following the phases of wetting/drying. Once the seed has reached the depth of soil at which moisture is constant, this mechanical action is stopped. The seed no longer sinks and germinates.

Protected in France, it is a southwestern alpine endemic species with a very restricted area in Italy and France.

Berardia lanuginosa (Lam.) Fiori, 1904, pant and seed

Hieracium chaixianum Arv.-Touv. & Gaut., 1902.

The Chaix’s hawkweed is a species belonging to the Asteraceae family such as dandelions. This species has been described by Casimir Arvet-Touvet, a botanist from Grenoble, and Gaston Gautier. In the 1880s, Arvet-Touvet specialized himself in the study of hawks (a difficult genre if any!) and described many species.

The Chaix’s hawkweed is an endemic species of the Dauphiné (French region) moutains where it is known on the slopes of Mount Aurouze. This species is dedicated to Dominique Chaix, botanist and abbot from a village near Mount Aurouze.

Hieracium chaixianum Arv.-Touv. Et Gaut., 1902

Time of germination tests

It is now the season to test the viability of seeds collected this summer. For each species, the optimal germination protocol is applied if known. Otherwise, a range of conditions (temperature, light or dark, scarification…) is applied to find an optimal germination protocol.

Hierochloe odorata (L.) P. Beauv., 1812
Germination tests
Flashback: Field finish & Lab process

Flashback: Field finish & Lab process

In August and September 2018, measuring biomass was on the daily work menu. After 2-3 days of ring-sample harvesting in the field, we spend minimum 3, up to 8 days in the laboratory for biomass data aquisition. This procedure was repeated four times, because of four experiment sites along an altitudinal gradient. See what was going on:

Shown here are examples of the lowest experiment site OG at 2000 m a.s.l. in Ötztal, in the central Austrian Alps. Rings were pulled out of the soil with a plant trowel. Roots and soil outstanding of the ring were cut off with a knife. The complete rings were put in plastic bags and stored in the fridge immediately after harvest at ~4°C until further processing in the Lab.

In the Laboratory, whole ring content (without plastic ring) was measured before and after cutting the aboveground plant parts off.

The cut off plants were sorted and species were identified. The picture on the right shows the output of a ring with facilitation treatment and sown bulbils of Poa alpina (target species).

The output seen above comprises 63 surviving bulbils of Poa alpina, 17 Trifolium pratense (including 7 seedlings), 2 Geranium sylvaticum, 16 shoots of Anthoxanthum odoratum, 4 shoots of Myosotis alpestris, 3 shoots of Ranunculus villarsii and 8 seedlings of Poa alpina and Agrostis capillaris each. Fresh weight was measured per species.

The central plant, the facilitator, was removed separately including above- and belowground parts. These were weighted separately as well. Pic plant: Poa alpina

After the fresh weight was measured, the aboveground plant-parts were put in paper bags (species wise) and put in the dry oven at 70°C.

Additionally, 10 individuals of each sown species (9 species) were pulled out of the soil from randomly chosen rings at each altitudinal experiment site, with as much roots as possible.

From these individuals we measured fresh weight aboveground as well as belowground. The picture shows Leucanthemopsis alpina individuals from 2600 m a.s.l.

The data from these 10 individuals may not be used in a big analysis, but they surly give an insight into the accumulated root biomass of the species within the two vegetation periods along the altitudinal gradient.

This laboratory work was done with help from the working groups’ technical assistant (right) and an extra employee (not in the picture). Extra help also came from my parents (left) who did a great job in the lab as well as in the field. They spend a lot of their free time, compensating a lack of money for more employees.

Without this crew, especially in the lab, the fresh weight measurements would have not been possible! Many thanks! Vera

One day for the Alps – Symposium on the threat of the Alps on October 20th 2018 in Graz

One day for the Alps – Symposium on the threat of the Alps on October 20th 2018 in Graz

The endangerment of the animals, plants and fungi of the Alps caused by climate change and land use pressures have reached unprecedented levels today. Our previous conservation efforts are inadequate, as documented by numerous Red Lists. The Alps are a special biodiversity hotspot; it is in the pan-European public interest to maintain this outstanding diversity for the future.

As a result, regional experts who delivered the symposium “Threat of the Alpine biosphere by land use intensification and climate change” in Graz call on all residents and policymakers responsible for the alpine region, for a strong and sustainable effort for the protection of nature in the Alps!

Download the resolution and priorities list.

The Alpine Symposium was organised within the scope of our final project meeting and was well visited. The audience consist of experts from various scientific disciplines, from policies and interested public.


Project film projection at the University of Pavia

Project film projection at the University of Pavia

On Tuesday 20th November the project film just realized (and now available on this website) was presented at the University of Pavia (Botanic Garden), within a seminar organized for BSc and MSc in Natural Sciences. The meeting was focussed on the role and the importance of communication in Science, particularly how people involved in natural sciences should approach this issue.

Before the film, member staff of the University of Pavia (Dr Andrea Mondoni, Prof. Graziano Rossi and Francesco Porro) presented the  “Alpine Seed Conservation and Research Network” discussing about the importance of conservation and research on alpine flora and how communication is nowday more crucial then ever in scientific projects.

During the seminar Dr Marco Buemi, a free-lance journalist active in crowdfounding projects on sustainable development and animal protection, provided a real life experiences of communication in science.









From 12-14 September partners from Pavia (Italy), Geneva (Switzerland) and Gap (France) visited RBG Kew as part of the Alpine Seed Conservation and Research project.

The first day was spent touring Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) in the Sussex countryside south of London. For many partners this was their first visit to the MSB and they were keen to learn about our processes and share their experiences. They were also able to meet with our germination specialists and discuss some of the trickier to grow species that we are conserving. Finally, the Head of Landscape and Horticulture provided a tour of the grounds of Wakehurst, Kew’s country garden, highlighting the links between horticulture and science at Kew, and with the seed stored at the MSB.

The next two days were spent at Kew Gardens in London for the State of the World’s Fungi symposium – an enlightening event packed full of great talks. During the schedule we managed to find time to visit the Davies Alpine House and have a behind the scenes tour of the alpine nursery.



Common Fieldtrip in the swiss Alps – summer 2018

Common Fieldtrip in the swiss Alps – summer 2018


From July, 30th, to August, 3rd, 8 members of 4 institutions of the Alpine Seed Conservation and Research project (MSB London, University of Innsbruck, University of Graz, Gap Alpine National Botanic Conservatory and Geneva Conservatory and Botanic Garden) had a common fieldtrip in the Alps, in the area of Haut Val de Bagnes (Valais). We spent these 4 days of botanical hiking to exchange experiences, discuss about the state of different aspects of the project and to collect seeds of the species list. Last but not least, the movie about the project moved forward: we were accompanied by a cameraman who was able to shoot many sequences on the spot, the weather being luckily mostly beautiful during the trip.

All participating members were happy of the success of this rewarding trip. Although it is worrying to note in the field that our efforts to safeguard alpine flora are certainly relevant: the retreat of glaciers in this emblematic valley unfolded before our eyes during these days of heat wave.

A new season for Trifolium saxatile

A new season for Trifolium saxatile

Despite the significant snowfall this winter, the rocky clovers cultivated at the Lautaret pass have been cleared at the same time as last year.

Before the first snowfall in the autumn 2017, we protected clovers from the appetite of the voles with a fence. It worked well! Clovers are in good health and have already new leaves.

In the autumn 2017, we left in place for the winter clovers that didn’t sprout last season. Among them we observe many germination at the end of May 2018, just after the snowmelt.



Autumn 2017 : preparation of the winter season in the “research area” of the Lautaret Alpine Garden, under the vigilance of the Meije (3983m). Under the fence, clovers transplanted in individual pots after germination during 2017 season. Under the green veil: seeds that haven’t sprout during the 2017 season.

Tyrolean Science Fund

Tyrolean Science Fund

Every year, the Provincial Government of Tyrol, Austria, launches a funding programme to promote scientific research and young scientists from all Tyrolean Universities. Vera Margreiter applied for this Tyrolean Science Fund with a proposal, focusing on the research of the genus Saxifraga. After starting the work with Saxifraga within the project ASCRN, it became clear pretty soon, that for a comprehensive observation and data collection of plant traits we would need more time and more ressources.

To make the long story short – Vera´s proposal was positively evaluated, leading to a share of the Tyrolean Science Fund cake. So, fortunately, research starting off through the ASCRN can now be extended beyond the timeframe of the Network.

All price winners of the Tyrolean Science Fund from all Tyrolean Universities. Vera standing in first row, 8th from the left; 10th from the left: Univ.-Prof. DI Bernhard Tilg, National Council; 1st from the left: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Ulrike Tanzer, Vice Rector for Research.

Visit from the French Embassy in Austria

Visit from the French Embassy in Austria

Le Pôle interdisciplinaire d’études françaises de l’Université d’Innsbruck together with the French Embassy in Vienna, are expanding and intensifying the relations of the University of Innsbruck to France. To get insights into the work of the already existing French-Austrian cooperations, a group of representatives visited diverse Departments of Innsbruck University.

As the “Alpine Seed Conservation and Research Network” includes such a cooperation, the group of representatives also stopped by at the Department of Botany in Innsbruck, where among others Konrad Pagitz & Vera Margreiter  presented the Network and their work.

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Eva Lavric, Director of Le Pôle interdisciplinaire d’études françaises de l’Université d’Innsbruck, MMag.a Ramona Kaier and Ludovic Milot MA, coordinators of Le Pôle, accompanied the Director of the Cultural Department of the French Embassy in Vienna, Dr. Jacques-Pierre Gougeon, on his tour through Innsbruck.

See some pictures of the warm and nice come-together.

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Ilse Kranner, head of the Department of Botany, welcomed the visitors with coffee in her office, where the ice broke fast and laughs were allowed.

Left to right: Vera Margreiter, Jacques-Pierre Gougeon, Konrad Pagitz, Ilse Kranner, Benjamin Dietre, Ludovic Milot. Eva Lavric in the front. Not in the picture: Ramona Kaier and Erwann Arc (Pic: Kaier)

 Vera Margreiter & Jacques-Pierre Gougeon (Pic: Kaier)

Explanation of the Network and the research on seed germination in the field area in Obergurgl, Ötztal, Tyrol, Austria.

(Pic: Kaier)

Visitation of the Laboratory facilities of the working group “Population Biology and Vegetation Ecology” with insights into the germination tests. Some seedlings are very tiny and need a closer look to identify!

Eva Lavric, Vera Margreiter, Jacques-Pierre Gougeon, Ilse Kranner (Pic: Kaier)

It was a pleasure to welcome the representatives of Le Pôle interdisciplinaire d’études françaises de l’Université d’Innsbruck as well as Dr. Jacques-Pierre Gougeon from the French Embassy!