Plant Ecology

, Volume 213, Issue 7, pp 1145–1155 | Cite as

Microsite and litter cover effects on seed banks vary with seed size and dispersal mechanisms: implications for revegetation of degraded saline land

  • Claire Farrell
  • Richard J. Hobbs
  • Timothy D. Colmer


Seed movements and fates are important for restoration as these determine spatial patterns of recruitment and ultimately shape plant communities. This article examines litter cover and microsite effects on seed availability at a saline site revegetated with Eucalyptus sargentii tree rows interplanted with 5–6 rows of saltbush (Atriplex spp.). As litter accumulation decreases with increasing distance from tree rows, soil seed banks were compared between paired bare and litter-covered zones within three microsites; tree row, saltbush row closest to tree row and saltbush mid-row (middle row of saltbush between tree rows). Germinable seed banks of the four most abundant species with contrasting seed sizes and dispersal mechanisms were assessed to test the hypotheses that: (i) microsites with litter cover contain higher seed densities than bare areas, but that (ii) microsite and litter effects will vary depending on seed size and dispersal mechanisms. Overall, litter cover increased seed densities, however, litter effects varied with seed size, with no effect on small-seeded species and litter increasing densities of large-seeded species. Seed bank composition also differed between tree and shrub microsites due to differences in seed morphology and dispersal mechanisms. Water-dispersed species were unaffected by microsite but densities of wind-dispersed species, including Atriplex spp., were higher in saltbush microsites. Densities of wind-dispersed species also differed between the two saltbush microsites despite similar litter cover. Future plantings should consider row spacing and orientation, as well as the dimensions of seeding mounds and associated neighbouring depressions, to maximize litter and seed-trapping by microsites.


Recruitment Banded vegetation Salinity Leaf litter 



The authors would like to thank Chris Szota and Aleida Williams for invaluable assistance in the field. Thanks also to Michael and Margaret Lloyd for allowing us to work on their property. This research was funded through a PhD scholarship from The University of Western Australia and the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire Farrell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard J. Hobbs
    • 1
  • Timothy D. Colmer
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Plant Biology (MO84)Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Melbourne School of Land and EnvironmentThe University of MelbourneRichmondAustralia

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