Journal of Plant Research

, Volume 131, Issue 5, pp 773–788 | Cite as

Comparison of aboveground vegetation and soil seed bank composition at sites of different grazing intensity around a savanna-woodland watering point in West Africa

  • Lassina Sanou
  • Didier Zida
  • Patrice Savadogo
  • Adjima Thiombiano
Regular Paper


Grazing removes a plant’s aboveground vegetative and reproductive tissues and can modify the soil seed bank, potentially impacting the restoration of preferred species. Knowledge about aboveground vegetation and species composition of soil seed bank and the processes that contribute to vegetation recovery on and surrounding watering points subjected to grazing is lacking. Successful restoration strategies hinge on addressing these knowledge gaps. We assessed the effects of livestock grazing on aboveground vegetation and soil seed bank characteristics along a river bank and surrounding areas subject to different grazing intensities and draw implications for restoration. Plots (50 × 50 m) were established along five transects representing differing levels of grazing intensity. Soil samples were taken from three layers within each plot to determine soil properties and species composition of soil seed bank using the seedling emergence method. Heavy grazing resulted in the disappearance of perennial grasses, a reduction in species diversity and a decrease in soil nutrients with increased soil depth. Overall, the similarity between the extant aboveground vegetation and flora within the soil seed bank was low. The soil seed bank was dominated by herbaceous species and two woody species, suggesting that many woody species are not accumulating in the soil. With increasing soil depth, the seed density and richness declined. Canonical correspondence analyses (CCAs) showed that emerged seedlings from the soil seed bank were significantly influenced by soil carbon, organic matter, total nitrogen, total potassium and soil cation exchange capacity. This finding suggests that current grazing practices have a negative impact on the vegetation surrounding watering points; hence there is a need for improved grazing management strategies and vegetation restoration in these areas. The soil seed bank alone cannot restore degraded river banks; active transfer of propagules from adjacent undisturbed forest areas is essential.


Ecosystem disturbance Grazing intensity Restoration Seed density Semi-arid ecosystem Vegetation and soil degradation 



Funding for this study was provided by the International Foundation for Science (IFS), Grant Agreement No. D/5613-1. The third author thanks the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) for support during writing of the manuscript. We also thank Dr. John A. Meadows for proofreading and editing this paper.

Supplementary material

10265_2018_1048_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (101 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 100 KB)


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Copyright information

© The Botanical Society of Japan and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lassina Sanou
    • 1
    • 3
  • Didier Zida
    • 1
  • Patrice Savadogo
    • 2
  • Adjima Thiombiano
    • 3
  1. 1.Département Environnement et Forêts, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et TechnologiqueINERAOuagadougou 03Burkina Faso
  2. 2.West and Central Africa Regional Office, Sahel NodeWorld Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)BamakoMali
  3. 3.Unité de Formation et de Recherche en Sciences de la Vie et de la Terre/Laboratoire de Biologie et Ecologie Végétales (UFR/SVT)Université Ouaga I Pr Joseph Ki-ZerboOuagadougouBurkina Faso

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