Contrasting dynamics of seed banks and standing vegetation of annuals and perennials along a rainfall gradient

Niv DeMalach*, Jaime Kigel, Marcelo Sternberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The soil seed bank is a major component of plant communities. However, long-term analyses of the dynamics of the seed bank and the ensuing vegetation are rare. Here, we studied the dynamics in plant communities with high dominance of annuals in Mediterranean, semiarid, and arid ecosystems for nine consecutive years. For annuals, we hypothesized that the density of the seed bank would be more stable than the density of the standing herbaceous vegetation. Moreover, we predicted that differences in temporal variability between the seed bank and the vegetation would increase with aridity, where year-to-year rainfall variability is higher. We found that the temporal variability at the population level (assessed as the standard deviation of the loge-transformed density) of the nine dominant annuals in each site did not differ between the seed bank and the ensuing vegetation in any of the sites. For the total density of annuals, patterns depended on aridity. In the Mediterranean site, the temporal variability was similar in the seed bank and the vegetation (0.40 vs. 0.40). Still, in the semiarid and arid sites, variability in the seed bank was lower than in the vegetation (0.49 vs. 1.01 and 0.63 vs. 1.38, respectively). This difference between the population-level patterns and the total density of annuals can be related to the lower population synchrony in their seed bank. In contrast, for the herbaceous perennials (all species combined), the seed bank variability was higher than in the vegetation. Overall, our results highlight the role of the seed bank in buffering the annual vegetation density with increasing climatic uncertainty typical in aridity gradients. This role is crucial under the increasing uncertainty imposed by climatic change in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125718
JournalPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
Volume58
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
Danny Wallach
Ministry of Science, Technology and Space
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Tel Aviv University
Ministry of Science and Technology, Israel

    Keywords

    • Aridity
    • Desert
    • Mediterranean
    • Soil seed bank
    • Stability
    • Synchrony

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