1 Many areas of lowland heaths are being lost due to invasion by Betula spp., Pinus sylvestris, Pteridium aquilinum, Rhododendron ponticum and Ulex europaeus. One of the factors influencing the success of restoration of heathland on such sites will be the content of their viable seedbanks.
2 Ten heathland areas in the Poole Basin area of Dorset, where succession to one or more of the above species had occurred were studied. The viable seedbanks of the successional sites were compared with those of nearby heathland using Canonical Discriminant Analysis.
3 The seedbanks of all the successional stages were significantly different from the seedbank of the heath.
4 The seedbanks from the Pinus sylvestris and Pteridium aquilinum successional stages contained significantly lower numbers of heathland species than did the heathland seedbank, although few non heathland species were present.
5 The seedbanks from the Betula spp., Rhododendron ponticum and Ulex europaeus successional sites contained both significantly lower numbers of heathland species and significantly higher numbers of non heathland species than the heathland seedbank.
6 The results are discussed in relation to the restoration of heathland on successional sites and the use of the seedbank as a source of propagales for the establishment of heathland species.