The Andean Forest Soil Seed Bank in Two Successional Stages in Northeastern Colombia
Background: Soil seed banks play an important role in post-disturbance regeneration and succession of species from different successional stages.
Questions: 1) What is the most effective method for determining the composition and structure of the soil seed bank of Andean forests? 2) What is the composition and structure of soil seed banks in old-growth forest and shrubland sites in the Andean montane tropical forest of the North Santander region of Colombia?
Study site: Andean forest, Pamplona, Colombia
Methods: We surveyed the soil seed bank in two successional stages of Andean forest and examined its structure using two sampling methods: direct separation and germination.
Results: Soil seed bank density was higher (18-fold in old-growth forest and 666-fold in shrubland) with the direct separation method than with germination; however, under the germination method, we found four species that we did not detect through the direct separation method. Soil seed banks from shrublands were mainly dominated by species from disturbed areas (91 %), while those from the old-growth forest presented early, intermediate and late species; e.g., Miconia summa, Myrsine dependens and Solanum sp., respectively. In the old-growth forest (especially for late species), density increased with depth. This pattern was not observed in shrubland. Seeds obtained by using the direct separation method presented low (< 7 %) viability.
Conclusion: We consider the two methods to be complementary and recommend the use of both for a thorough characterization of soil seed banks from Andean forests. At different successional stages in the Colombian Andean forest, the soil seed bank may contain early, intermediate and late species, and it therefore plays an important role in the regeneration of this threatened ecosystem.
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