Skip to main content Accessibility help

Seasonal variation in density and species richness of soil seed-banks in karst forests and degraded vegetation in central Yunnan, SW China

  • You-xin Shen (a1), Wen-yao Liu (a1), Min Cao (a1) and Yu-hui Li (a2)


We studied seasonal variation in density and species richness of seeds in the 0–10 cm soil depth layer in primary, secondary and pine forests, and in shrubland and grassland in the Shilin Stone Forest Geographical Park, Yunnan, SW China. Soil samples were collected four times during the year at 3-month intervals. Seeds from 119 species were identified by germination tests in the soil samples. Density and species richness of seeds of herbaceous plants were greater than woody plants at all five sites throughout the year. Sampling time and site differences had significant effects on the mean number of species and on seed-bank density. Mean number of species per sample increased from February, reached the highest value in May, decreased to the lowest value in August and then increased in November. An exception was in the primary forest, where the highest number of species was found in February. Mean seed-bank density peaked in May at all five sites, and no significant differences were found between densities in February, November and August, except for the primary forest. The peak in seed-bank density in May might be due to dispersal of new seeds of spring-fruiting species, combined with persistence of seeds dispersed in previous years. This seasonal variation of individual species was due primarily to differences in species phenology rather than to differences between sites. Four seasonal seed-bank strategies were identified: two transient and two persistent. At all sites, similar numbers of seeds of herbaceous species were found between seasons, but the number of species of trees and shrubs decreased in August.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence Fax: 86-871-5160916 Email:


Hide All
Baskin, C.C. and Baskin, J.M. (1998) Seeds: Ecology, biogeography, and evolution of dormancy and germination. San Diego, Academic Press.
Baskin, J.M. and Baskin, C.C. (1984) Role of temperature in regulating timing of germination in soil reserves of Lamium purpureum L. Weed Research 24, 341349.
Baskin, J.M. and Baskin, C.C. (1985) Does seed dormancy play a role in the germination ecology of Rumex crispus? Weed Science 33, 340343.
Baskin, J.M. and Baskin, C.C. (1986) Seasonal changes in the germination responses of buried witchgrass (Panicum capillare) seeds. Weed Science 34, 2224.
Bertiller, M.B. (1992) Seasonal variation in the seed bank of a Patagonian grassland in relation to grazing and topography. Journal of Vegetation Science 3, 4754.
Bossuyt, B., Heyn, M. and Hermy, M. (2002) Seed bank and vegetation composition of forest stands of varying age in central Belgium: consequences for regeneration of ancient forest vegetation. Plant Ecology 162, 3348.
Cabin, R.J. and Marshall, D.L. (2000) The demographic role of soil seed banks I. Spatial and temporal comparisons of below- and above-ground populations of the desert mustard Lesquerella fendleri. Journal of Ecology 88, 283292.
Garwood, N.C. (1989) Tropical soil seed banks: a review. pp. 149210in Leck, M.A.; Parker, V.T.; Simpson, R.L. (Eds) Ecology of soil seed banks. San Diego, Academic Press.
Institute of Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences and National Planning Commission (1989) Annual report of phenological observations of fauna and flora (1985–1986). Beijing, Surveying and Mapping Publishers.
Institute of Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences and National Planning Commission (1992) Annual report of phenological observations of fauna and flora (1987–1988). Beijing, Surveying and Mapping Publishers.
Jin, Z.Z. and Peng, J. (1998) Vegetation of Kunming (in Chinese). Kunming, Yunnan Science and Technology Press.
Lavorel, S., Debussche, M., Lebreton, J.-D. and Lepart, J. (1993) Seasonal patterns in the seed bank of Mediterranean old-fields. Oikos 67, 114128.
Liu, J.M. (2000) The seed bank of forest community at the pinnacles of Maolan karst hilly area in Guizhou. Forest Research 13, 4450(in Chinese with English abstract).
Mayor, M.D., Boo, R.M., Pelaez, D.V. and Elia, O.R. (2003) Seasonal variation of the soil seed bank of grasses in central Argentina as related to grazing and shrub cover. Journal of Arid Environments 53, 467477.
Onaindia, M. and Amezaga, I. (2000) Seasonal variation in the seed banks of native woodland and coniferous plantations in Northern Spain. Forest Ecology and Management 126, 163172.
Roberts, H.A. (1981) Seed banks in soils. Advances in Applied Biology 6, 155.
Roberts, H.A. and Neilson, J.E. (1981) Seed survival and periodicity of seedling emergence in twelve weedy species of Compositae. Annals of Applied Biology 97, 325334.
Russi, L., Cocks, P.S. and Roberts, E.H. (1992) Seed bank dynamics in a Mediterranean grassland. Journal of Applied Ecology 29, 763771.
Shen, Y.X., Jiang, J., Chen, S.G., Cai, G.L. and Zhang, P. (2004) Storage and composition of soil seed banks of different degraded karst vegetation types in south-eastern Yunnan. Acta Phytoecologica Sinica 28, 101106(in Chinese with English abstract).
Shen, Y.X., Liu, W.Y., Li, Y.H. and Cui, J.W. (2005) Community ecology study on karst semi-humid evergreen broad-leaved forest at the central part of Yunnan. Guihaia 25, 321326(in Chinese with English abstract).
Su, W.C. and Zhu, W.X. (2000) The eco-environmental fragility in karst mountain regions of Guizhou Province. Journal of Mountain Science 18, 429434(in Chinese with English abstract).
Ter Heerdt, G.N.J., Verweij, G.L., Bekker, R.M. and Bakker, J.P. (1996) An improved method for seed bank analysis: seedling emergence after removing the soil by sieving. Functional Ecology 10, 144151.
Thompson, K. (2000) The functional ecology of soil seed banks. pp. 215235in Fenner, M. (Ed.) Seeds: The ecology of regeneration in plant communities (2nd edition). Wallingford, CAB International.
Thompson, K. and Grime, J.P. (1979) Seasonal variation in the seed banks of herbaceous species in ten contrasting habitats. Journal of Ecology 67, 893921.
Walck, J.L., Baskin, J.M., Baskin, C.C. and Hidayti, S.N. (2005) Defining transient and persistent seed banks in species with pronounced seasonal dormancy and germination patterns. Seed Science Research 15, 189196.
Wang, S.J. (2002) Concept deduction and its connotation of karst rocky desertification. Carsologica Sinica 21, 101105(in Chinese with English abstract).
Wu, Z.Y. (1980) Vegetation of China. Beijing, Science Publishers (in Chinese).
Yan, D.X., Zhu, D.H., Weng, J.T., Zhu, X.W., Han, X.J., Wang, X.Y., Cai, G.E., Zhu, Y.F., Cui, G.Z. and Deng, Z.Q. (1994) Karst in China. Beijing, Geographical Publishers (in Chinese).
Zhang, F.M., Geng, H., Li, Y.H., Liang, Y.N., Yang, Y.H., Ren, J., Wang, F.C., Tao, H.L. and Li, Z.D. (1997) Study on the Lunan Stone Forest Karst. China. Kunming, Yunnan Science and Technology Press (in Chinese).
Zhou, Z.X., Mao, Z.Z., Yu, L.F., Ding, G.J., Xie, S.X., Nie, C.J. and Cheng, Z.Q. (2002) The study on degraded land and its vegetation restoration models of desertification of Guizhou. Guizhou Science 20, 16(in Chinese with English abstract).
Zhu, S.Q. (2002) Ecological research of Karst forest, Vol. 2. Guiyang, Guizhou Science and Technology Press (in Chinese).



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed