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Seed banking in ancient forest species: why total sampled area really matters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 January 2012

Jan Plue*
Division for Forest, Nature and Landscape Research, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, B-3001 Belgium
Ken Thompson
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
Kris Verheyen
Laboratory of Forestry, Ghent University, Geraardsbergsesteenweg 267, B-9090 Belgium
Martin Hermy
Division for Forest, Nature and Landscape Research, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, B-3001 Belgium
*Correspondence Fax: +468164955 Email:


This study investigates how methodological aspects of seed-bank sampling affect seed-bank records in temperate deciduous forests. We focused explicitly on seed-bank records of ancient forest species, which are assumed to lack a persistent seed bank; a hypothesis suspected to be partly due to methodological shortcomings. Through a quantitative review of 31 seed-bank studies in temperate deciduous forests of central and north-west Europe, we quantified the role of sampling methodology in constraining total seed-bank records and seed-bank records of ancient forest species (γ-diversity, average species' retrieval frequency and average seed density). A major methodological trade-off was established between sampled plot area and the number of plots: at an increased number of plots, the area sampled per plot decreased significantly. The total surface area sampled in a study was the primary determinant of γ-diversity, both for overall species richness and for ancient forest species richness. A high retrieval frequency of ancient forest species indicated that few plots were intensively sampled. The parallel increase in total species richness and ancient forest species richness and the non-significance of their ratio in relation to methodological variables suggests that ancient forest species are not particularly rare in the seed bank compared to other species. These results imply that sampling methodology has a far-reaching impact on seed-bank records such as γ-diversity, the detection of ancient forest species and ultimately seed-bank composition. We formulate a set of guidelines to improve the quality of seed-bank studies in temperate deciduous forests.

Research Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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Supplementary material: File

Plue Supplementary Table 1

Table S1. All 36 studies (including additional references not listed in the article reference list) with their main methodological characteristics (a) and data quality remarks (b). Studies marked in grey were excluded due to methodological aberrations.

Download Plue Supplementary Table 1(File)
File 610 KB
Supplementary material: File

Plue Supplementary Table 2

Table S2: Three full unpublished datasets including basic details on the various studies. As these studies remain unpublished until today, seed bank data are only presented as presence-absence data.

Download Plue Supplementary Table 2(File)
File 95 KB
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