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1 April 2014 Soil Seed Bank in Nantucket's Early Successional Communities: Implications for Management
K.A. Omand , J.M. Karberg, K.C. Beattie, D.I. O'Dell, R.S. Freeman
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Globally rare sandplain grassland and coastal heathland plant communities of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, merit high conservation priority because they support many rare and endangered species. Management (brush-cutting, grazing, and prescribed fire) has been effective in maintaining these communities, but less successful in transforming overgrown native scrub oak shrubland to diverse grassland. These scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia Wangenh.) communities may lack a seed bank of grassland species in their soil. To examine this on Nantucket, we used the seedling emergence method to compare the soil seed bank of grassland, heathland, and scrub oak sites. We classified seedlings by growth form (graminoid, forb, or woody) and identified them to genus and species when possible. We observed that seedling density declined along a successional gradient, with the highest total density and highest graminoid density at grassland sites and the lowest at one of the scrub oak sites. A nMDS ordination grouped grassland sites with dominant graminoids and heathland sites with dominant woody species and forbs. Seeds of key grassland dominants were absent from scrub oak and heathland samples but were found in grassland samples. Our results suggest that lack of seed bank of desirable grassland species may be a limiting factor in restoration projects intended to convert scrub oak shrubland to sandplain grassland. Scarcity of grassland species in the scrub oak seed bank highlights the importance of maintaining existing grassland communities, rather than attempting to restore them once they are gone.

K.A. Omand , J.M. Karberg, K.C. Beattie, D.I. O'Dell, and R.S. Freeman "Soil Seed Bank in Nantucket's Early Successional Communities: Implications for Management," Natural Areas Journal 34(2), 188-199, (1 April 2014).
Published: 1 April 2014

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