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A review of similarity between seed bank and standing vegetation across ecosystems


  • Kristine N. Hopfensperger

K. N. Hopfensperger (, Appalachian Laboratory, Univ. of Maryland Center for Environmental Science , 301 Braddock Road, Frostburg, MD 21532, USA.


The relationship between above and belowground species composition has been researched in forests, grasslands, and wetlands to understand what mechanisms control community composition. I thoroughly reviewed 108 articles published between 1945 and 2006 that summarized and provided specific values on similarities between above and belowground communities to identify common trends among ecosystems. Using Sørenson's index of similarity, I found that standing vegetation and its associated seed bank was the least similar in forest ecosystems, most similar in grasslands, and of intermediate similarity in wetlands. I also discovered that species richness was not related to seed bank – vegetation similarity in any of the three ecosystems. Disturbances were a common mechanism driving community composition in all ecosystems, where similarity decreased with time since disturbance in forest and wetland ecosystems and increased with time since disturbance in grasslands. Knowing the relationships between seed bank and standing vegetation may help conservationists to manage against exotic species, plan for community responses to disturbances, restore diversity, and better understand the resilience of an ecosystem.