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European soil seed bank communities across a climate and land-cover gradient

Citation

Plue, Jan et al. (2022), European soil seed bank communities across a climate and land-cover gradient, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.ksn02v72g

Abstract

This is the data set used for the publication Buffering effects of soil seed banks on plant community composition in response to land use and climate, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Aim. Climate and land use are key determinants of biodiversity, with past and ongoing changes posing serious threats to global ecosystems. Unlike most other organism groups, plant species can possess dormant life-history stages such as soil seed banks, which may help plant communities to resist or at least postpone the detrimental impact of global changes. This study investigates the potential for soil seed banks to achieve this.

Location. Europe

Time period. 1978 – 2014

Major taxa studied. Flowering plants

Methods. Using a space-for-time/warming approach, we study plant species richness and composition in the herb layer and the soil seed bank in 2796 community plots from 54 datasets in managed grasslands, forests and intermediate, successional habitats across a climate gradient.

Results. Soil seed banks held more species than the herb layer, being compositionally similar across habitats. Species richness was lower in forests and successional habitats compared to grasslands, with annual temperature range more important than mean annual temperature for determining richness. Climate and land use effects were generally less pronounced when plant community richness included seed bank species richness, while there was no clear effect of land use and climate on compositional similarity between the seed bank and the herb layer.

Main conclusions. High seed bank diversity and compositional similarity between the herb layer and seed bank plant communities may provide a potentially important functional buffer against the impact of ongoing environmental changes on plant communities. This capacity could, however, be threatened by climate warming. Dormant life-history stages can therefore be important sources of diversity in changing environments, potentially underpinning already observed time-lags in plant community responses to global change. However, as soil seed banks themselves appear, albeit less, vulnerable to the same changes, their potential to buffer change can only be temporary, and major community shifts may still be expected.

Methods

This dataset is a collection of 41 published and 5 unpublished data sets, consisting of 2796 plots with corresponding seed bank and herb layer community data. Sampling effort varied across data sets, but involved sampling of the soil and subsequent germination trials in a greenhouse to determine seed bank composition. Herb layer communities were determined by the identification of plants in relevés. Please consult the readme file and published paper for further details.

Usage Notes

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Funding

Natural Environment Research Council, Award: NE/D00036X/1

Norges Forskningsråd, Award: 184912,73758/410,156325/530

Svenska Forskningsrådet Formas, Award: 2015‐1065,2018‐00961

Vetenskapsrådet

Östersjöstiftelsen