Get access

The Influence of Time on the Soil Seed Bank and Vegetation across a Landscape-Scale Wetland Restoration Project

Authors

  • Peter A. Stroh,

    Corresponding author
    1. Animal and Environment Research Group, Department of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT, U.K.
      P. A. Stroh, email peter.stroh@anglia.ac.uk
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Francine M. R. Hughes,

    1. Animal and Environment Research Group, Department of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT, U.K.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Tim H. Sparks,

    1. Institute of Zoology, Poznań University of Life Science, Wojska Polskiego 71C, 60-625 Poznań, Poland
    Search for more papers by this author
  • J. Owen Mountford

    1. NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford OX10 8BB, U.K.
    Search for more papers by this author

P. A. Stroh, email peter.stroh@anglia.ac.uk

Abstract

Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Cambridgeshire, U.K. is a wetland of international importance isolated in a landscape dominated by arable farming. The prospect of species extinctions within the NNR led to the creation of the Wicken Fen Vision, an ambitious project that will eventually expand the reserve boundary by the purchase and restoration of c.50 km2 of arable land. We sampled three fields from each of three distinct age-categories of restoration land (5, 15, and 60 years post-arable), and three fields within the adjacent, undrained NNR, to determine (1) differences in seed bank composition across age-categories, (2) relationships between restoration age, the seed bank and standing vegetation, and (3) changes in species traits across age-categories. Historic arable management contributed to an apparent “vertical mixing” effect in the seed bank of the youngest two age-categories, with associated and significant differences in species functional traits across the study area. Almost all plants associated with NNR vegetation were absent from restoration area seed banks and standing vegetation. Seed bank species common to all ages-categories exhibited a bias toward moderate to high Ellenberg F (moisture) values, persistent seed banks, and lateral vegetative spread. Relatively short (c. 6 years) periods of drainage and plowing impact heavily upon seed bank diversity and soils, resulting in a lack of predrainage vegetation, even after decades of subsequent restoration adjacent to intact, species-rich habitat. However, the seed banks of highly degraded fields can contribute toward the creation of novel wetland vegetation assemblages over time and under suitable environmental conditions.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary