, Volume 120, Issue 4, pp 539-543

Plants with longer-lived seeds have lower local extinction rates in grassland remnants 1950–1985

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We investigated whether plant species with longer-lived seeds in the soil had lower rates of local extinction between 1950 and 1985 than species with shorter-lived seeds in 26 intact remnants of extensively used calcareous grasslands. In a previous study we had found higher rates of local extinction for smaller populations, for species with shorter life cycles, and for species with higher habitat specificity. We compiled information on seed longevity from recent literature. Seed longevity had a highly significant effect on the rate of population extinction. Rates of local extinction were lower for species with seed longevity >5 years (33.8%; 31 species) compared with species with shorter-lived seeds (1–5 years: 60.7%, 46 species; <1 year: 58.5%, 81 species). The integration of seed longevity into our analysis did not change our previous conclusions on the dependence of local extinction rates on habitat specificity and on life form. Species in our data set with higher habitat specificity tended to have shorter-lived seeds than species with lower habitat specificity. Thus, most characteristic species of calcareous grassland do not persist in the seed bank and can not rely on this mechanism as a buffer against local extinction.