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The fate of seeds in Mediterranean soil seed banks in relation to their traits

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Question: Is there any change in seed density and species richness in Mediterranean surface soil banks during summer? Are there any relationships between these summer variations and seed traits (weight, length and shape), without and with controlling the phylogenetic effect?

Location: Central Spain.

Methods: Samples of the surface soil seed bank were collected in two Mediterranean systems, grassland and scrubland, at two points in the year: immediately after the summer production peak and immediately prior to the autumn germination peak. We used Canonical Correspondence Analysis ordination to check for changes in floristic composition and ANOVAs to check for changes in seed density and species richness between summer and autumn samples. We used multiple regression analysis to analyse the relationship between summer variations in soil seed density and form traits, with and without controlling phylogenetic relations.

Results: Soil seed density dropped significantly during the summer in the two systems (28% in grasslands, repeated measures ANOVA test; F = 58.19, P < 0.01; 72% in scrublands, repeated measures ANOVA test; F = 75.67, P < 0.001). Species richness, however, only dropped significantly in the scrubland (32%; repeated measures ANOVA test; F = 9.17, P < 0.05). Variation in the floristic composition of the shallow banks was only significant in the scrubland.

Changes in shallow bank density were related significantly to seed morphology features, with greater drops in species with heavier seeds in grasslands and species with longer seeds in scrubland.

Conclusions: Our results show a substantial loss of seeds in the uppermost soil layer during the summer period between the point of peak production and the autumn germination peak. This drop was clearer in the scrubland than in the grassland. Longer and/or heavier seeds underwent the greatest declines in density at the end of summer, indicating a more intense effect of post-dispersal predation on large-seeded species.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2006

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