The water uptake by the seed in arid and semi-arid ecosystems may not be continuous, but may occur in hydration and dehydration cycles (HD). In order to investigate the benefits of discontinuous hydration on seed germination of Pilosocereus catingicola subsp. salvadorensis subjected to environmental stresses, an imbibition curve was determined and times X, Y and Z selected, corresponding to 25, 50 and 75% of the first phase of imbibition, respectively. Seeds of two populations (Caatinga and Restinga) were subjected to 0, 1, 2 and 3 HD cycles, with 48 h of dehydration. Water and saline stress responses were tested at five osmotic potentials (0.0, –0.1, –0.3, –0.6 and –0.9 MPa). Discontinuous hydration provided greater tolerance to water and saline stress in the seeds from the Caatinga region. When the seeds were subjected to water stress, the reduction of the mean germination time (MGT) provided by HD cycles decreased with increasing concentration of the solution. In saline stress, the reduction of MGT was greater in the solutions with the highest concentrations. We conclude that the seeds of the same species collected from populations located in different ecosystems have different germination responses after passage through discontinuous hydration and HD cycles. This provides greater tolerance to environmental stresses but with different responses among populations.