Chinese Geographical Science

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 694–706 | Cite as

Regenerative Role of Soil Seed Banks of Different Successional Stages in A Saline-alkaline Grassland in Northeast China

  • Hongyuan MaEmail author
  • Jingpeng Li
  • Fan Yang
  • Xiaotao Lü
  • Yuepeng Pan
  • Zhengwei Liang


Soil seed banks can act as a potential seed source for natural revegetation and restoration. However, in a saline-alkaline grassland, it remains unclear how the stages of vegetation succession affect the characteristics of soil seed banks and the potential of soil seed banks of different successional stages for vegetation restoration. In this study, seasonal changes of the soil seed bank, and seed production and dispersal dynamics along degradation successional gradients were investigated in a saline-alkaline grassland in Northeast China, where the dominant grass during the 1960s, Leymus chinensis was replaced with the secondary successional order of Puccinellia chinampoensis, Chloris virgata, and Suaeda salsa, together with bare patches. It was found that the soil seed bank composition varied according to the changing vegetation and had the highest species richness (7–16) in the climax successional stage, but had a low Sørensen similarity (0.22–0.37) with the aboveground vegetation. There was a high seed density of the soil seed bank (21 062–62 166/m2 in August and December) and also high Sørensen similarity index values (0.47–0.60) in the secondary successional stages of P. chinampoensis, C. virgata, and S. salsa. In bare patches, there were many seeds in the soil seed bank and some seedlings also appeared in the aboveground vegetation, indicating the existence of a persistent soil seed bank. Seed density and species richness differed substantially among the different successional stages, which was related to the reproductive characteristics of the standing plants in vegetation communities. Due to the lack of propagules of perennial species, especially the climax species of L. chinensis, in the soil, the successful restoration of the degraded saline-alkaline grassland was not possible. The study proved that in a degraded saline-alkaline grassland dominated by biennial or annual species, the soil seed bank was important for the revegetation of the current dominant plants, but not for the restoration of the original target species. Therefore, it is necessary to induce seeds or other propagules of the target perennial species.


soil seed bank seed dispersal ecological restoration phenology succession seed rain 


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We thank Professors Carol C Baskin and Jerry M Baskin (University of Kentucky), Dr. David Merritt (University of Western Australia), and Mark K J Ooi (University of New South Wales) for comments on the draft manuscript. We also thank Dr. Xue Zhenshan for drawing the map of the study area.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agricultural Ecology, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hongyuan Ma
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jingpeng Li
    • 1
  • Fan Yang
    • 1
  • Xiaotao Lü
    • 2
  • Yuepeng Pan
    • 3
  • Zhengwei Liang
    • 1
  1. 1.Da’an Sodic Land Experiment Station, Northeast Institute of Geography and AgroecologyChinese Academy of SciencesChangchunChina
  2. 2.Erguna Forest-Steppe Ecotone Research Station, Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Boundary Layer Physics and Atmospheric Chemistry, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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