Nothofagus alpina, N. obliqua, N. glauca, N. leonii, N. dombeyi and N. pumilio seeds exhibited consistent, albeit slight, sensitivity to extreme desiccation, but nevertheless maintained viability at low moisture contents and cool temperatures (–10° to –20°C) over 2 years. Nothofagus alpina, N. obliqua, N. glauca, N. leonii and N. dombeyi conformed to the seed viability equation of Ellis and Roberts; sensitivity of longevity to temperature was quantitatively similar to that of crop seeds, sensitivity to moisture was somewhat less, and a low-moisture-content limit to the equation was detected at 4.8% moisture content in hermetic storage at 65 °C, and possibly similar moisture contents at 30–40°C. These five species show orthodox seed storage behaviour. Therefore, ex-situ conservation of these Nothofagus species in seed banks is possible, but the quality of seed lots collected requires attention. Seed storage behaviour was not defined in N. pumilio: initial seed quality was poor and loss of viability was detected over 2 years at 0°, –10° and –20°C at 2.7% moisture content, but not at 5.2%. The results confirm that the economy of nature in seed storage physiology extends to forest tree seeds, but the repeated observation of reduced sensitivity of longevity to moisture in forest tree seeds requires further investigation.