Influence of grazing on soil seed banks determines the restoration potential of aboveground vegetation in a semi-arid savanna in Ethiopia

Z.K. Tessema, W.F. de Boer, R.M.T. Baars, H.H.T. Prins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Species composition, number of emerging seedlings, species diversity and functional group of the soil seed banks, and the influence of grazing on the similarity between the soil seed banks and aboveground vegetation, were studied in 2008 and 2009 in a semi-arid savanna of Ethiopia. We tested whether the availability of persistent seeds in the soil could drive the transition from a degraded system under heavy grazing to healthy vegetation with ample perennial grasses. A total of 77 species emerged from the soil seed bank samples: 21 annual grasses, 12 perennial grasses, 4 herbaceous legumes, 39 forbs, and 1 woody species. Perennial grass species dominated the lightly grazed sites, whereas the heavily grazed sites were dominated by annual forbs. Heavy grazing reduced the number of seeds that can germinate in the seed bank. Species richness in the seed bank was, however, not affected by grazing. With increasing soil depth, the seed density and its species richness declined. There was a higher similarity in species composition between the soil seed bank and aboveground vegetation at the lightly grazed sites compared with the heavily grazed sites. The mean similarity between the seed banks and aboveground vegetation was relatively low, indicating the effect of heavy grazing. Moreover, seeds of perennial grasses were less abundant in the soil seed banks under heavy grazing. We concluded that restoration of grass and woody species from the soil seed banks in the heavily grazed areas could not be successful in semi-arid savannas of Ethiopia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-219
JournalBiotropica
Volume44
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • species composition
  • standing vegetation
  • southern ethiopia
  • woody-plants
  • dynamics
  • australia
  • germination
  • ecosystems
  • grassland
  • rangeland

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