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Keywords:

  • biodiversity;
  • exotic species;
  • floodplain vegetation;
  • plant ecology;
  • revegetation;
  • stream restoration

Abstract

Although soil seed banks are understood to be integral to the vegetation dynamics and restoration of many ecosystems, little is known of their role in riparian zones. In this study, we investigated soil seed banks of riparian zones of contrasting condition in an agricultural landscape and evaluated their potential to influence riparian restoration. We examined the composition and structure of germinable soil seed banks along lateral gradients from stream channels in both cleared and wooded riparian zones of three lowland creeks within the Goulburn Broken catchment in temperate southeastern Australia. Environmental correlates of soil seed bank characteristics and similarity to extant vegetation were also examined. We found an abundant and species-rich soil seed bank mostly comprising propagules of perennial rushes and sedges and annual and perennial grasses with many species of annual forbs. While the majority of identifiable germinants and species were native, exotic species were common at all locations. Soil seed bank composition was relatively homogeneous among streams and along lateral gradients from the channel. Riparian condition (i.e. cleared or wooded), however, had a strong influence on soil seed bank composition and structure with cleared reaches containing more species, more germinable annual grasses and higher total numbers of germinable seeds. Soil seed bank composition was correlated with site openness suggesting that extant vegetation structure plays an important role in soil seed bank dynamics. Recruitment from the in situ soil seed bank will help restore only some components of the riparian plant community and may hinder restoration by introducing undesirable species. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.