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Data from: A century of genetic variation inferred from a persistent soil-stored seed bank

Cite this dataset

Summers, Jennifer L. et al. (2018). Data from: A century of genetic variation inferred from a persistent soil-stored seed bank [Dataset]. Dryad.


Stratigraphic accretion of dormant propagules in soil can result in natural archives useful for studying ecological and evolutionary responses to environmental change. Few attempts have been made, however, to use soil-stored seed banks as natural archives, in part because of concerns over non-random attrition and mixed stratification. Here we examine the persistent seed bank of Schoenoplectus americanus, a foundational brackish marsh sedge, to determine whether it can serve as a resource for reconstructing historical records of demographic and population genetic variation. After assembling profiles of the seed bank from radionuclide dated soil cores, we germinated seeds to ‘resurrect’ cohorts spanning the 20th century. Using microsatellite markers, we assessed genetic diversity and differentiation among depth cohorts, drawing comparisons to extant plants at the study site and in nearby and more distant marshes. We found that seed density peaked at intermediate soil depths. We also detected genotypic differences among cohorts as well as between cohorts and extant plants. Genetic diversity did not decline with depth, indicating that the observed pattern of differentiation is not due to attrition. Patterns of differentiation within and among extant marshes also suggest that local populations persist as aggregates of small clones, likely reflecting repeated seedling recruitment and low immigration from admixed regional gene pools. These findings indicate that persistent and stratified soil-stored seed banks merit further consideration as resources for reconstructing decadal-to-century long records that can lend insight into the tempo and nature of ecological and evolutionary processes that shape populations over time.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1556556, BCS-1655781, BCS-1655702, DEB-0950080, DEB-1457100, DEB-1557009


Gulf Coast
Atlantic Coast
Chesapeake Bay