Seed Stores for Restoration of Species-Rich Shrubland Vegetation Following Mining in Western Australia

Authors


Dr. Sean M. Bellairs, CSIRO Dryland Crops and Soils Research Unit, Private Bag, P.O., Wembley, W.A. 6014, Australia

Abstract

The extreme species richness of native shrubland vegetation (kwongan) near Eneabba, Western Australia, presents a major problem in the restoration of sites following mineral sand mining. Seed sources available for post-mining restoration and those present in the native kwongan vegetation were quantified and compared. Canopy-borne seeds held in persistent woody fruits were the largest seed source of perennial species in the undisturbed native vegetation and also provided the most seeds for restoration. In undisturbed vegetation, the germinable soil seed store (140–174 seeds · m−2) was only slightly less than the canopy-borne seed store (234–494 seeds · m−2), but stockpiled topsoil provided only 9% of the germinable seeds applied to the post-mining habitat. The age of stockpiled soil was also important. In the three-year-old stockpiled topsoil, the seed bank was only 10.5 seeds · m−2 in the surface 2.5 cm, compared to 56.1 to 127.6 seeds · m−2 in fresh topsoil from undisturbed vegetation sites. In the stockpiled topsoil, most seeds were of annual species and 15–40% of the seeds were of non-native species. In the topsoil from undisturbed vegetation, over 80% of the seeds were of perennial species, and non-native species comprised only 2.7% of the seed bank. Additional seeds of native species were broadcast on restoration areas, and although this represented only 1% of the seed resources applied, the broadcast seed mix was an important resource for increasing post-mining species richness. Knowledge of the life-history characteristics of plant species may relate to seed germination patterns and assist in more accurate restoration where information on germination percentages of all species is not available.

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