Plant Ecology

, Volume 213, Issue 3, pp 383–393 | Cite as

Soil seed bank, fire season, and temporal patterns of germination in a seeder-dominated Mediterranean shrubland

  • Blanca Céspedes
  • Iván Torres
  • Belén Luna
  • Beatriz Pérez
  • José M. Moreno


Soil seed banks play a major role in the post-fire regeneration of Mediterranean shrublands. They vary throughout the year in species composition, abundance, and readiness to germinate. After fire, germination occurs mainly during the following fall to spring. Time of germination can determine recruitment success. It is unclear what factors control post-fire germination and its timing. We tested the effects of season and fire on the readily germinable soil seed bank of a seeder-dominated shrubland. Plots were burned early and late in the summer season (ES, LS). Soil samples were collected before and after fire, and germinated in a chamber simulating successively autumn, winter, and spring conditions. Samples were kept moistened at all times. Fire intensity was similar between ES and LS. Several species of Cistus and herbs, mostly annuals, were dominant. Most germination occurred during the simulated-autumn period, with little subsequent germination during the following two periods. Germination speed (T50) during simulated-autumn was similar for shrubs and herbs, and independent of season or fire. Germination was lower for two shrubs (Rosmarinus officinalis, Cistus salvifolius) and higher for herbaceous dicots in LS than in ES soils. Fire reduced monocots and enhanced Cistus. Germination period significantly interacted with fire and season in some groups or species, altering the simulated-autumn germination peak. We demonstrate that the seed bank can germinate swiftly under simulated-autumn conditions. Hence, water availability is the main controlling factor of germination. Fire season differentially affected some species or groups, and could affect the post-fire regeneration.


Cistus Germination temperature Global change Rainfall patterns Regeneration strategy Rosmarinus 


  1. Arianoutsou-Faraggitaki M (1984) Post-fire successional recovery of a phryganic (east Mediterranean) ecosystem. Acta Oecol 5(19):387–394Google Scholar
  2. Auld TD, Bradstock RA (1996) Soil temperatures after the passage of a fire: do they influence the germination of buried seeds? Aust J Ecol 21:106–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baskin C, Baskin J (1998) Seeds, ecology, biogeography, and evolution of dormancy and germination. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  4. Bastida F, Talavera S (2002) Temporal and spatial patterns of seed dispersal in two Cistus species (Cistaceae). Ann Bot 89:427–434PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bastida F, Talavera S, Ortiz PL, Arista M (2009) The interaction between Cistaceae and a highly specific seed-harvester ant in a Mediterranean scrubland. Plant Biol 11:46–56PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buisson E, Dutoit T, Torre F, Romermann C, Poschlod P (2006) The implications of seed rain and seed bank patterns for plant succession at the edges of abandoned fields in Mediterranean landscapes. Agric Ecosyst Environ 115:6–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clemente AS, Rego FC, Correia OA (1996) Demographic patterns and productivity of post-fire regeneration in Portuguese Mediterranean Maquis. Int J Wildland Fire 6:5–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clemente A, Rego F, Correia O (2007) Seed bank dynamics of two obligate seeders, Cistus monspeliensis and Rosmarinus officinalis, in relation to time since fire. Plant Ecol 190:175–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Daskalakou EN, Thanos CA (2004) Postfire regeneration of Aleppo pine—the temporal pattern of seedling recruitment. Plant Ecol 171:81–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Luis M, Verdú M, Raventós J (2008) Early to rise makes a plant healthy, wealthy, and wise. Ecology 89:3061–3071CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Enright NJ, Lamont BB (1989) Seed banks, fire season, safe sites and seedling recruitment in 5 co-occurring Banksia species. J Ecol 77:1111–1122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Espigares T, Peco B (1993) Mediterranean pasture dynamics—the role of germination. J Veg Sci 4:189–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Esteban-Parra MJ, Rodrigo FS, Castro-Díez Y (1998) Spatial and temporal patterns of precipitation in Spain for the period 1880–1992. Int J Climatol 18:1557–1574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. FAO (1974) Food and agriculture organization. Soil Map of the World: Vol. I, Legend. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  15. Fenner M, Thompson K (2005) The ecology of seeds. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Figueroa JA, Teillier S, Jaksic FM (2004) Composition, size and dynamics of the seed bank in a Mediterranean shrubland of chile. Aust Ecol 29:574–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Giménez-Benavides L, Escudero A, Pérez-García F (2005) Seed germination of high mountain Mediterranean species: altitudinal, interpopulation and interannual variability. Ecol Res 20:433–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Giorgi F, Lionello P (2008) Climate change projections for the Mediterranean region. Global Planet Change 63:90–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Heisler-White JL, Knapp AK, Kelly EF (2008) Increasing precipitation event size increases aboveground net primary productivity in a semi-arid grassland. Oecologia 158:129–140PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Keeley JE, Fotheringham CJ, Baer-Keeley M (2006) Demographic patterns of postfire regeneration in Mediterranean-climate shrublands of California. Ecol Monographs 76:235–255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Knox KJE, Clarke PJ (2006) Fire season and intensity affect shrub recruitment in temperate sclerophyllous woodlands. Oecologia 149:730–739PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Luna B, Pérez B, Céspedes B, Moreno JM (2008) Effect of cold exposure on seed germination of 58 plant species comprising several functional groups from a mid-mountain Mediterranean area. Ecoscience 15:478–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moreira B, Tormo J, Estrelles E, Pausas JG (2010) Disentangling the role of heat and smoke as germination cues in Mediterranean Basin flora. Ann Bot 105:627–635PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moreno JM, Oechel WC (1992) Factors controlling postfire seedling establishment in southern California chaparral. Oecología 90:50–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moreno JM, Cruz A (2000) La respuesta de las plantas al fuego: factores y mecanismos. In: Vélez R (ed) La lucha contra los incendios forestales: fundamentos experiencias y aplicaciones. Mc Graw-Hill, Madrid, pp 413–436Google Scholar
  26. Ojeda F, Brun FG, Vergara JJ (2005) Fire, rain and the selection of seeder and resprouter life-histories in fire-recruiting, woody plants. New Phytol 168:155–165PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ooi MKJ (2010) Delayed emergence and post-fire recruitment success: Effects of seasonal germination, fire season and dormancy type. Aust J Bot 58:248–256Google Scholar
  28. Ortega M, Levassor C, Peco B (1997) Seasonal dynamics of Mediterranean pasture seed banks along environmental gradients. J Biogeogr 24:177–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pérez B, Moreno JM (1998) Fire-type and forestry management effects on the early postfire vegetation dynamics of a Pinus pinaster woodland. Plant Ecol 134:27–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Quintana JR, Cruz A, Fernández-González F, Moreno JM (2004) Time of germination and establishment success after fire of three obligate seeders in a Mediterranean shrubland of central Spain. J Biogeogr 31:241–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reyes O, Trabaud L (2009) Germination behaviour of 14 Mediterranean species in relation to fire factors: smoke and heat. Plant Ecol 202:113–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Roy J, Sonie L (1992) Germination and population-dynamics of Cistus species in relation to fire. J Appl Ecol 29:647–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Salvador R, Lloret FL (1995) Germinación en el laboratorio de varias especies arbustivas mediterráneas: efecto de la temperatura. Orsis 10:25–34Google Scholar
  34. Seifan M, Tielborger K, Kadmon R (2010) Direct and indirect interactions among plants explain counterintuitive positive drought effects on an eastern Mediterranean shrub species. Oikos 119:1601–1609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Thomas PB, Morris EC, Auld TD, Haigh AM (2010) The interaction of temperature, water availability and fire cues regulates seed germination in a fire-prone landscape. Oecologia 162:293–302PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Torres I, Urbieta RI, Moreno JM (2012) Vegetation and soil seed bank relationships across microhabitats in an abandoned Quercus suber parkland under simulated fire. Ecoscience 19, I (in press)Google Scholar
  37. Traba J, Azcárate FM, Peco B (2006) The fate of seeds in Mediterranean soil seed banks in relation to their traits. J Veg Sci 17:5–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Trabaud L (1994) Diversity of the soil seed bank of a Mediterranean Quercus ilex forest. Biol Conserv 69:107–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Trabaud L, Casal M (1989) Response of Rosmarinus officinalis seeds on different simulations of fire. Acta Oecol 10:355–363Google Scholar
  40. Trabaud L, Oustric J (1989) Comparison between the post-fire regeneration strategies of 2 Cistus Species. Revue d’Écologie-La Terre et la Vie 44:3–13Google Scholar
  41. Trigueros Vera D, Parra Martín P, Rossini Oliva S (2010) Effect of chemical and physical treatments on seed germination of Erica australis. Annales Botanici Fennici 47:353–360Google Scholar
  42. Troumbis A, Trabaud L (1987) Seed bank dynamics of 2 Cistus species in Greek Mediterranean-type ecosystems. Acta Oecol 8:167–179Google Scholar
  43. Tutin TG, Heywood VH, Burges NA, Moore DM, Valentine DH, Walters SM, Webbs DAE (1964–1980) Flora Europaea. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  44. Valbuena L, Trabaud L (2001) Contribution of the soil seed bank to post-fire recovery of a heathland. Plant Ecol 152:175–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vázquez A, Moreno JM (1998) Patterns of lightning-, and people-caused fires in peninsular Spain. Int J Wildland Fire 8(2):103–115Google Scholar
  46. Verdú M, Traveset A (2005) Early emergence enhances plant fitness: a phylogenetically controlled meta-analysis. Ecology 86:1385–1394CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Blanca Céspedes
    • 1
  • Iván Torres
    • 1
  • Belén Luna
    • 1
  • Beatriz Pérez
    • 1
  • José M. Moreno
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of Castilla-La ManchaToledoSpain

Personalised recommendations