Spontaneous succession is increasingly involved in grassland restoration, because it offers a cost-effective solution compared to technical reclamation methods. This topic is especially important nowadays, as large areas of marginal croplands are being abandoned on poor soils of Central and Eastern Europe, which offers a possibility for the spontaneous recovery of typical target grasslands. Studying the vegetation composition, aboveground biomass, and seed bank in old fields of different age and target calcareous sand grasslands using the chronosequence method, we aimed to answer the following questions: (1) Which species contribute to the seed banks of old fields and reference grasslands? (2) Does the direction of vegetation and seed bank succession trend toward the reference grasslands? (3) How are the vegetation changes in spontaneous succession reflected by the soil seed banks of old fields? In reference grasslands on the dune tops only sporadic seed banks were detected, while several hygrophytes had dense seed banks in reference grasslands in dune slacks. Similarity between the species composition of vegetation and seed banks was low. The development of vegetation and seed banks in old fields progressed toward that of target grasslands and the proportion of weedy species (e.g. indigenous weeds and invasive species) also decreased with time. The cryptogam biomass correlated significantly negatively, while the soil phosphorus significantly positively with the weedy species seed bank density. Our results indicated that the role of persistent seed banks in the regeneration of calcareous sand grasslands from old fields is rather limited and promising vegetation changes are mostly driven by spatial dispersal.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation