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Soil seed banks are an important source of new individuals for many plant populations and contribute to future genetic variability. In general, the size and persistence of soil seed banks is predicted to be greater where growth occurs in unpredictable pulses, where opportunities for disturbance-related recruitment are frequent and where the probability of recruitment failure is high. In savanna ecosystems, characterized by disturbance from fire and unpredictable water availability, soil seed banks should be relatively important sources of recruitment. However, the few studies conducted in savannas are inconclusive about the importance of soil seed banks and, more specifically, how seed banks should change across environmental gradients. We determined the number of viable seeds in the soil seed bank across savanna-grasslands in the Serengeti, an ecosystem characterized by frequent fire and seasonal drought. Soils were exposed to a combination of smoke and heat, cues which may be required to break seed dormancy in such ecosystems. Our a priori expectation was to observe large seed banks in regions characterized by seasonal drought and comparatively smaller seed banks in regions of higher moisture availability and high fire frequencies. In contrast to our hypothesis, seed germination increased strongly with precipitation and fire frequency. In addition, there was a significant interaction effect between fire and rainfall: low rainfall sites with frequent fire had greater seed germination than low rainfall sites with low fire frequency. Moreover, in laboratory experiments, heat had a negative, smoke a positive effect on final seed germination numbers. Together, these findings suggest that fire may be a key factor in driving herbaceous seed bank dynamics in tropical savannas.