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The role of soil seed banks in the restoration of dry acidic dune grassland after burning of Ulex europaeus scrub

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Question: Can the seed bank play a significant role in the restoration of plant communities of dry acidic dune grassland where fire has destroyed Ulex europaeus scrub?

Location: Northern French Atlantic coast.

Methods: One year after the fire, the seed bank and vegetation were sampled in 1 m × 1 m plots along three transects from the oldest scrub vegetation towards the grassland. Differences in species richness, seed density and contribution of ecological groups in the seed bank and vegetation along the transects were analysed.

Results: Seed density and species richness in the seed bank decreased significantly from the grassland towards the centre of the scrub vegetation; 50% of the seed bank consisted of core species of the target plant community, such as Carex arenaria, Aira praecox, Rumex acetosella and Agrostis capillaris. Seeds of these species were also found in the deeper soil layers beneath the oldest scrub vegetation, indicating that they can be considered to be long-term persistent. Beneath the youngest scrub vegetation, seeds of rare satellite target species also occurred. However, no target species were established on the burned site after one year, resulting in a large discrepancy between seed bank and vegetation.

Conclusions: Although the seeds present in the soil indicate that restoration of the acidic grassland based on the seed bank is possible, additional management actions such as mowing and soil disturbance may be necessary to restrict resprouting of Ulex and to stimulate the germination of seeds of target species in the deeper soil layers.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-04-01

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