, Volume 13, Issue 13, pp 2485-2509

Soil seed bank composition and diversity in a managed temperate deciduous forest

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Little is known about the influence of forest management on the interaction between seed bank and aboveground vegetation. We surveyed seed banks and vegetation in 10 forest stands under similar abiotic conditions but submitted either to a coppice-with-standards treatment (n = 5) or to a selective-cutting system (n = 5). We analyzed species composition and diversity, community ecological profile, and distribution of taxa among different life forms, strategy, morphology and functional type categories. A total of 2085 seedlings (8296 seeds m−2) germinated-corresponding to 28 species, among which Juncus effusus was the most abundant. Fifty-seven percent of the species were also recorded in the aboveground vegetation, the dominant species being Rubus fruticosus agg., but only 28% of the aboveground species were present in the seed bank. Our results suggest that (1) vernal geophytes and shade-tolerant perennials, which group most true forest species, are not incorporated in the seed bank, (2) parent plants of most seeds were present either in the stand in an earlier dynamic stage or apart from the stand and long-distance dispersed, (3) as expected, early-successional species are well represented in the seed bank, (4) forestry vehicles seem to be a major means of dispersion for stress-tolerant species normally found in forest lanes and wheel tracks. We conclude that seed banks contain species that have a potentially negative impact on the true forest flora and, thus, forest management should minimize soil disturbance and retain remnants of old-coppice woods to conserve disturbance-sensitive true forest species.