The size and diversity of the soil seed banks and the light requirements of the species in sunny and shady natural communities of the Białowieża Primeval Forest
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The research was conducted in two natural forest communities: Potentillo albae-Quercetum (‘oak forest’) which allows much light to reach the forest floor and Tilio-Carpinetum typicum (‘hornbeam forest’) which shades the herb layer heavily. The seed banks were estimated from numbers of seedlings emerging from soil samples over one growing season.
(1) Our results confirm the hypothesis that persistent seed banks are mainly formed by species with high light requirements. Of the species found predominantly in the seed bank and absent from the herb layer or occurring there very rarely in both communities 83% of species and 70% of seedlings were strongly light-demanding (Ellenberg's light index 6–9). However, the results do not support the hypothesis that seed banks in natural deciduous forest communities are small, poor in species and do not reflect the species composition of herb layer.
(2) The seed banks of both communities were rich in species and relatively large. Species richness in the oak forest turned out to be higher than in the hornbeam forest (51 vs 45 species/2.4 m2), but size was smaller (2659 vs 5789 seedlings/2.4 m2). In the oak forest the most abundant species in the seed bank was Galium boreale, but it constituted only 19% of the total number of seedlings, whereas in the hornbearn forest the dominant species, Urtica dioica, constituted 57% of the total.
(3) In each community the species composition of the seed bank and the herb layer was very similar (>70%).
(4) The seed bank was more diverse in the oak forest than in the hornbeam forest (H′ 2.34 vs 1.68).
(5) The seed banks of both communities differed in the contribution of species with varied light requirements; in the sunny oak forest species with high light requirements dominated, whereas in the shady hornbeam forest both strongly and moderately light-demanding species had similar contributions.
Nomenclature: Follows Ehrendorfer (1973) and Matuszkiewicz (1981).
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