Seed Bank Viability in Disturbed Longleaf Pine Sites

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Abstract

Some of the most species-rich areas and highest concentrations of threatened and endangered species in the southeastern United States are found in wet savanna and flatwood longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) communities. Where intensive forestry practices have eliminated much of the natural understory of the longleaf ecosystem, the potential for reestablishment through a seed bank may present a valuable restoration opportunity. Longleaf pine sites converted to loblolly pine plantations and non-disturbed longleaf sites on the Coastal Plain of North Carolina were examined for seed bank presence and diversity. Conducting vegetation surveys and examining the seed bank using the seedling emergence technique allowed for verification of the seed bank presence, as well as evaluation of the quality of the seed bank on disturbed longleaf pine sites. Forty-three species and over 1,000 individuals germinated, and the seed banks of both the disturbed and non-disturbed stand types contained species not noted in the vegetation survey. Although many of these species were considered weedy and typical of disturbance, numerous taxa were indicative of stable longleaf pine communities. This study confirms both the presence and quality of seed banks in highly disturbed former longleaf pine sites, suggesting that the seed bank may be an important tool in restoration efforts.

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