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The effects of three years of fencing enclosure on soil seed banks and the relationship with above-ground vegetation of degraded alpine grasslands of the Tibetan plateau

Abstract

Background and Aims

Fenced enclosures have become an important method for re-establishing degraded grassland on the Tibetan plateau, and examination of soil seed banks may provide useful insights to understanding the effects and mechanisms of fencing enclosure on the restoration.

Methods

An investigation was conducted into the effects of enclosure for 3 years on the soil seed banks of degraded natural and sown grasslands at eight study sites. Species composition, soil seed bank density and the relationships with above-ground vegetation were analysed based on 4800 soil core samples and counting of seeds extracted from soil samples.

Results

After 3 years of fencing enclosure, soil seed banks differed between the different communities across the study sites. Species numbers and seed density in soil seed banks decreased from natural grassland to sown grassland, with most seeds occurring in the upper 5 cm soil layer. In these alpine grasslands, relatively few species produced high numbers of seeds, although their occurrence across the eight study sites was variable. Total vegetation cover increased with enclosure due to the colonization capacity of the vegetation rather than soil seed banks.

Conclusions

This study provided evidence that soil seed banks do not play an important role in the restoration of degraded alpine grassland when using fencing enclosures. Further studies conducted over longer periods are needed to address this subject.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41171417; 30730069). We thank Malcolm Gibb (Formerly of The Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, UK) and Andrew White (The University of Adelaide, Australia) for their considerable suggestions and editing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zhan-Huan Shang or Rui-Jun Long.

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Responsible Editor: Hans Lambers.

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Shang, ZH., Deng, B., Ding, LM. et al. The effects of three years of fencing enclosure on soil seed banks and the relationship with above-ground vegetation of degraded alpine grasslands of the Tibetan plateau. Plant Soil 364, 229–244 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-012-1362-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-012-1362-9

Keywords

  • Soil seed bank
  • Fencing enclosure
  • Degradation
  • Restoration
  • Aalpine grassland
  • Tibetan plateau