Seed traits and germination of native grasses and invasive forbs are largely insensitive to parental temperature and CO2 concentration.
The structure and function of grassland ecosystems can be altered by a changing climate, including higher temperature and elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration. Previous studies suggest that there is no consistent trend in seed germination and seedling recruitment as affected by these conditions. We collected seeds of two native and two invasive species over 6 years from a field study with elevated CO2 (600 p.p.m.) and temperature (1.5/3.0°C day/night) on the mixed-grass prairie of Wyoming, USA. Seed fill, viability and mass were evaluated and germination tests were conducted under alternating temperatures in growth chambers. Thermal time requirements to reach 50% germination (θ50) and base temperatures (Tb) for germination were determined using thermal time models. Climate change conditions had limited effects on seed fill, viability and mass. The combination of CO2 enrichment and warming increased germination of Bouteloua gracilis. Centaurea diffusa and Linaria dalmatica, two invasive species in this study, had the lowest θ50 and Tb required for germination among all the species studied. Although final germination percentages of these invasive species were not affected by treatments, previous studies reported increased seed production under future climate conditions, indicating that they could be more invasive at the regeneration stage in the future. We conclude that projected future temperature increases will have little effect on seed reproductive traits of native species. In addition, the distribution and abundance of B. gracilis and invasive species may be favoured by global climate change due to enhanced germination or seed production traits caused by elevated parental CO2 and temperature conditions.