Vegetation and soil seed banks of a threatened Atlantic fen meadow community were studied using recent phytosociological records and seedling emergence from soil samples. Similarly managed but differently degraded stands that suffered different levels of species impoverishment were compared. The actual vegetation was related to a set of phytosociological references representing the subassociations of the community. DCA positions of reference relevés from the different subassociations were overlapping, suggesting that in all references many common species occur. Recent records were positioned in-between the seed bank samples and the references. The soil seed banks of all stands were dominated by ordinary species. Most character species had at most sparse seed banks and no seedlings of locally extinct character species, mentioned in historic floristic records, were detected. In contrast species of pioneer and small-sedge communities as well as those of heathlands were abundant in the seed banks. Based on the vertical distribution of seeds in the soil layers most fen meadow species were classified into transient or short-term persistent seed bank types. We concluded that complete restoration of the Cirsio dissecti-Molinietum without reintroduction is only likely in stands that were degraded only a few years ago. On the other hand, the presence of viable seeds of Nanocyperion and Parvocaricetea species is promising for the restoration of these communities even after decades. Recreation of pioneer habitats by sod cutting will preserve these species.
Nomenclature: van der Meijden (1996) for taxa; Schaminée et al. (1996) for syntaxa.
Abbreviations: DCA = Detrended Correspondence Analysis; EXV = Eexterveld; ULE = Ule Krite; WYL = Wyldlannen; WTS = Wijnjeterperschar.