Interest in developing this multiauthored book grew from our work with seeds and seed-bank ecology. While seed production and seed-bank dynamics are critical stages, what happens to seedlings is also fundamental to explaining field observations of vegetation dynamics and recruitment. Although several recent books discuss seedlings, indicating their importance to plant regeneration (Fenner, 2000) and to seed ecology (Fenner & Thompson, 2005), only one, Swaine (1996), focuses on seedling ecology; it, however, deals exclusively with tropical forest seedlings and is now more than 10 years old. A fourth volume, Forget et al. (2005), is primarily about seed predation and dispersal. Seedling Ecology and Evolution will complement these works and provide a more all-encompassing discussion. Moreover, it bridges the life-cycle gap following seeds (e.g. Baskin & Baskin, 1998) and seed banks (e.g. Leck et al., 1989). Additional information about regeneration strategies may be found in Harper (1977), Grubb (1977, 1998), and Grime (2001).
We acknowledge the importance of understanding seedling biology in agriculture and horticulture; however, seedlings are well studied in these settings, whereas in natural systems, seedlings are less studied, and the literature is more diffuse. This book explores seedling adaptations and constraints to regeneration in natural and disturbed systems, where a better understanding of seedlings would stimulate study and development of theory regarding this dynamic and often neglected part of the plant life cycle.
After seeds, seedlings typically suffer the highest mortality rate of any life history stage and, therefore, are important in the selection and evolution of species.