, Volume 190, Issue 2, pp 459–469 | Cite as

The legacy of initial sowing after 20 years of ex-arable land colonisation

  • Eva ŠvamberkováEmail author
  • Jiří Doležal
  • Jan Lepš
Community ecology – original research


Priority effects provide an advantage to early establishing species and are thought to significantly affect the course of succession. We conducted a 20-year long experiment sowing high- and low-diversity mixtures in an ex-arable field. We ask how long the effect of sowing persists and which sown species affect the course of succession. The experiment was established in the Czech Republic in five replicate blocks, each containing three random 10 × 10 m plots with three treatments: natural colonisation, sowing low- and high-diversity seed mixtures. The species cover was annually estimated in 12 permanent 1 m2 quadrates within each plot. To identify the effects of sowing, we used an innovative method analysing the data separately for each year using Redundancy analysis (RDA) with identity of sown species as explanatory variables. In the first year, the effect of sowing was small; the peak of explained variability occurred between third and fifth year. The legacy of sowing was detectable in the natural colonisers for 18 years and in the sown species for the whole 20-year period. For some species, the difference between the plots where they were and were not sown remained significant for the whole 20-year period (e.g. Lathyrus pratensis) although the plots were adjacent and the area was mown with the same machine. Other ones (e.g. Trisetum flavescens) colonised all the plots evenly. The long-lasting effect of the initial sowing confirms contingency of successional pathway on the propagule pressure in the time of start of succession due to the priority effects.


Founder effect Initial composition Long-term experiment Old-field succession Priority effect 



The research was supported by grant of the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR 31-17-05506S and 17-19376S). We thank dozens of students participating in vegetation recording, and farmer and plant ecologist Miroslav Šrůtek for hosting the experiment. We thank Jan W. Jongepier for language correction.

Author contribution statement

JL conceived the ideas and designed the methodology; JL and JD supervised the experiment and collected the data with EŠ and many others; EŠ and JL analysed the data, EŠ has written the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed critically to the versions of the manuscript and gave final approval for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

442_2019_4415_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 2896 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaCeske BudejoviceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Section of Plant Ecology, Institute of BotanyCzech Academy of SciencesTřeboňCzech Republic
  3. 3.Institute of Entomology, Biology CentreCzech Academy of SciencesCeske BudejoviceCzech Republic

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