Seed bank diversity in mesic grasslands and their relation to vegetation, management and site conditions
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SubjectC-S-R strategy; Grazing; Land-use; Marginal region; Mowing; Seed accumulation index (SAI); Semi-natural grassland
Questions: 1. Do different management types (i.e. hay meadow, silage meadow, meadow-pasture, pasture) have different impact on the size and composition of the seed bank of mesic grassland (Arrhenatheretalia)? 2. How strong is the effect of management on the seed bank in relation to above-ground vegetation, edaphic factors and land-use history? 3. Are there differences in C-S-R plant strategy types and seed longevity under different management regimes? Location: Lahn-Dill Highlands in central-western Germany. Methods: Above-ground vegetation and the soil seed bank of 63 plots (at 21 sites) in mesic grasslands were studied. Differences between management types in quantitative seed bank traits and functional characteristics were tested by ANOVA. The impact of management, above-ground vegetation, site conditions and land-use history on seed bank composition were analysed by partial CCA. Results: Management had no significant impact on species richness and density of the seed bank but significantly influenced their floristic composition and functional characteristics. CCA revealed that even after adjustment for soil chemical parameters and above-ground vegetation management still had significant impact on seed bank composition. ANOVA revealed that silage meadows contained higher proportions of R-strategy compared to hay meadows. In contrast, in hay meadows and meadow-pastures proportions of S-strategy were higher than in silage meadows. Conclusions: The type of grassland management has little impact on quantitative seed bank traits. Management types with a high degree of disturbance lead to an increase of species following a ruderal strategy in the seed bank. Irrespective of management type only a limited proportion of characteristic grassland species is likely to re-establish from the seed bank after disappearance from above-ground vegetation.
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