The role of seedbank and sown seeds in the restoration of an English flood-meadow



Abstract. In 1985 an opportunity arose to make use of an area (referred to as Somerford Mead) which had recently been used for intensive grass or cereal production but which originally had been a permanent hay-meadow. Situated on circum- neutral alluvial soils over limestone gravel, it is in close proximity to the River Thames and to species-rich flood meadows, including Oxey Mead (Fig. 1). This paper describes the early stages of an experiment to recreate a ‘typical’ flood-meadow community using seed harvested from Oxey Mead. Before sowing the seed, soil samples were taken and seedling emergence suggested that little of the original flood-meadow seed bank survived. Although Oxey Mead was known to contain at least 57 species, germination of samples of the sown seed in the glasshouse was confined to 12 species. All except Bromus commutatus and Trisetum flavescens and an additional nine Oxey Mead species were recorded in the field, together with 24 arable weed/ruderal species. Soil-nutrient contents (N, P and K) were high; so the restoration of this flood-meadow using only management techniques (hay cutting at the end of June and aftermath grazing) and the local seed bank would take a long time. The use of Alopecuros pratensis-Sanguisorba officinalis seed mixture was justified by the accelerated succession on Somerford Mead towards the parent community.