Plant and Soil

, Volume 429, Issue 1–2, pp 91–100 | Cite as

Effects of indigenous soil cyanobacteria on seed germination and seedling growth of arid species used in restoration

  • M. Muñoz-RojasEmail author
  • A. Chilton
  • G. S. Liyanage
  • T. E. Erickson
  • D. J. Merritt
  • B. A. Neilan
  • M. K. J. Ooi
Regular Article


Background and aims

Cyanobacteria from biocrusts can enhance soil function and structure, a critical objective when restoring degraded dryland ecosystems. Large-scale restoration of biodiversity requires direct seeding of native plant species, and bio-priming seeds with cyanobacteria is a potential method of initiating enhanced soil functioning. The utility of cyanobacteria for improving soil is therefore dependent on whether target plant species remain unaffected during its application.


Cyanobacteria from the genera Microcoleus and Nostoc were isolated from locally-sourced biocrust samples, and cultured under controlled conditions. A two-factor laboratory experiment was conducted including cyanobacteria and the culture growth medium (BG11) as factors. We bio-primed seeds of five species native to Western Australia, commonly used in dryland restoration, by soaking them in the cultures developed, and assessed germination and growth.


We found significant positive effects of seeds bio-primed with cyanobacteria on germination and seedling growth of two species, Senna notabilis and Acacia hilliana, respectively. Importantly, no significant negative effects of cyanobacteria were found for any of the species studied.


Few studies of cyanobacteria effects on regeneration of native species exist. We found that the potential benefits of applying indigenous bacteria via bio-priming seeds would not inhibit plant establishment, and indeed may be beneficial for some species used in dryland restoration.


Pilbara Drylands Biocrust Native plants Seedling recruitment Land rehabilitation Bio-priming 



This research project was supported by BHP Billiton Iron Ore Community Development Project (contract no. 8600048550) under the auspices of the Restoration Seedbank Initiative (2013-2018), a partnership between BHP Billiton Iron Ore, The University of Western Australia, and the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority; and The University of Western Australia Research Collaboration Award 2018 Innovative nature-based strategies for drylands restoration: the potential of indigenous cyanobacteria. MMR acknowledges the support from the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE180100570).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Muñoz-Rojas
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • A. Chilton
    • 4
  • G. S. Liyanage
    • 3
  • T. E. Erickson
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. J. Merritt
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. A. Neilan
    • 4
    • 5
  • M. K. J. Ooi
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Kings Park Science, Department of BiodiversityConservation and AttractionsKings ParkAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Australian Centre for Astrobiology and School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular SciencesUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.School of Environmental and Life SciencesUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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