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Samples of soil from six forest stands of different age and composition were collected, and the seedlings emerging during germination experiments were recorded Total seed bank densities varied between 2230 and 15,630 seeds m−2 The seed bank size was positively correlated with the yearly seed influx, which constituted from 400 to 2720 seeds m−2Juncus effusus dominated the seed banks with generally 2000 to 3300 seeds m−2, to exceptionally 10820 seeds m−2 Seeds of Rubus idaeus, Betula pubescens and Carex spp were also abundant in the soil Similar numbers of species were present in the seed banks and vegetation, but only 7-48% were species in common Anemochorous species were more frequent in soil than above-ground, while zoochorous species were rare in soil but abundant in the vegetation A measure of the occurrence of seeds in relation to soil depth was designed Seeds of species with short-term survival in soil (e g Anemone nemorosa, Epilobium angustifolium, Oxalis acetosella and Stellaria holostea) were confined to the top soil, while many well known long-term survivors (e g Carex piluhfera, Poa annua, Rubus idaeus and Stellaria media) were found predominantly deep in the soil The horizontal distribution of seeds of herbaceous species forming short-term seed banks was largely random, while seeds of herbs capable of long-term survival in soil were significantly aggregated Except for one old and species-poor site, the dormant flora indicated generally high levels of disturbance in the past