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Phylogenetic relatedness mediates persistence and density of soil seed banks

Cite this dataset

Gioria, Margherita; Pyšek, Petr; Baskin, Carol; Carta, Angelino (2020). Phylogenetic relatedness mediates persistence and density of soil seed banks [Dataset]. Dryad.


Soil seed banks can strongly affect survival and expansion of plant populations by spreading mortality risks and distributing genetic diversity through time. Knowledge of the main factors regulating the ability of seeds to persist in the soil beyond the first growing season is however limited. While morphological and physiological seed traits, and the degree of environmental uncertainty are considered important in shaping the seed-banking strategies of plants, global assessments that explicitly account for phylogenetic relatedness are lacking.

Using a global seed bank database comprising data for 2350 angiosperms, we examined the extent to which two seed bank properties, i.e., seed bank type (transient vs. persistent) and density of viable seed banks, are determined by phylogenetic relatedness. We then tested phylogenetic correlations between these properties with seed mass and seed dormancy (dormant vs. non-dormant), and the contribution of phylogenetic relatedness relative to that of climatic and habitat-related variables in shaping seed bank properties.

We found significant phylogenetic signal in seed bank type and density, providing evidence that the ability to form persistent seed banks is not randomly distributed across the phylogeny. While the ability to persist in the soil was phylogenetically correlated to the production of dormant and smaller seeds, seed mass and seed dormancy per se were poor predictors of seed persistence. Interestingly, habitat-related variables (mainly disturbance and canopy openness) but not climate significantly affected the ability of seed plants to form persistent seed banks.

Synthesis: Our study is the first to show that phylogenetic relatedness plays an important role in explaining seed bank properties in angiosperms and how these properties relate to early life-history traits, climate and habitat-related variables. These findings represent a starting point to assess the generality of persistent seed banks as a bet-hedging strategy in unpredictable environments and provides important insights into how seed plants might respond to global environmental changes. 


This dataset contains soil seed bank data, i.e., seed bank type (transient vs. persistent, sensu Thompson et al., 1997), and seed bank density (mean number of seedlings per square meter), for 2350 angiosperm taxa obtained from 195 studies, in 11,893 records. Relevant literature was identified by searching the Web of Science (ISI) and Google Scholar, using the keyword ‘seed’ or ‘diaspore’ in combination with ‘bank’, ‘below-ground’, ‘buried’, ‘community’, ‘flora’, ‘reservoir’, ‘soil’, and ‘stored’. Additional studies were searched by screening the reference lists provided in the resulting papers as well as papers citing the papers originally retrieved. For papers that contained potentially relevant data that could not be extracted directly, we contacted the authors for additional information. A full description of the methodology used to compile an earlier version of this dataset (updated until April 2018) is described in Gioria et al. (2019), including the criteria used to identify and select the sources from which seed bank data were extracted. The last search for relevant literature in the present study was conducted in February 2020.

This dataset includes seed bank data collected from the native distribution range and estimated using the seedling emergence approach (Thompson et al., 1997), thus estimating only viable soil seed banks. We included only studies providing mean density values at the study sites, coming from multiple samples (and not values from single samples at each site), maximum densities per site, total numbers of seeds/seedlings per site, or frequency values. This was done to minimise any potential confounding effect associated with the large spatial and temporal variation that characterises soil seed banks.

For each species, we included information on seed mass (mg), obtained from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Seed Information Database (2020), seed dormancy (dormant vs. non-dormant), based on the classification provided in the Baskin Dormancy Database (Baskin & Baskin, 2014), and life form (annual, perennial, woody).

For each record, we provided the geographic coordinates and information on 11 climatic variables (2.5 minutes) extracted from WorldClim (Hijmans et al., 2005). We also provided information on three habitat variables summarising local environmental conditions, i.e., disturbance (disturbed vs. nonditurbed), soil moisture (dry, moist, wet), and openness (open vs. close canopies). 



Baskin, C. C. & Baskin, J. M. (2014). Seeds: ecology, biogeography, and evolution of dormancy and germination (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Academic/Elsevier.

Gioria, M., Le Roux, J. J., Hirsch, H., Moravcová, L. & Pyšek, P. (2019). Characteristics of the soil seed bank of invasive and non-invasive plants in their native and alien distribution range. Biological Invasions, 21, 2313–2332.

Hijmans, R. J., Cameron, S. E., Parra, J. L., Jones, P. G. & Jarvis, A. (2005). Very high- resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. International Journal of Climatology, 25, 1965–1978.

Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. (2020). Seed Information Database (SID). Version 7.1. 

Thompson, K., Bakker, J. P. & Bekker, R. M. (1997). Soil seed banks of NW Europe: methodology, density and longevity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Usage notes

There are no missing values in the dataset. 


Grantová Agentura České Republiky, Award: 19-20405S

Akademie Věd České Republiky, Award: RVO 67985939

Grantová Agentura České Republiky, Award: EXPRO grant no. 19-28807X