Abstract

Seed banks play an important role in the resilience of potential anthropogenic areas and are influenced by seasonal variation. The spatial and temporal heterogeneity of the forests influences the richness and density of the soil seed bank, but there is a hypothesis that such influence can be changed in anthropogenic areas, where we expect to find lower richness and seed density in relation to the seed bank of mature forests. The richness and seasonal density of seeds in the soil depth of a young caatinga forest, 17 years after an agricultural activity was abandoned, were evaluated and compared with those of a mature forest. The study was conducted at the Instituto Agronômico de Pernambuco - IPA (Estação Experimental José Nilson de Melo), located in Caruaru, Pernambuco, Brazil, in an area of tropical dry forest, known locally as “caatinga”. The local climate is seasonal, the dry season occurring from September to February and the rainy season concentrated in the remaining months. The average annual rainfall over time (time series of 30 years) is 692mm. In each climatic season (rainy and dry), the seed bank was sampled in 210 20x20cm plots (105 in the leaf litter and 105 at 5cm soil depth). The richness and seed density of the soil samples were evaluated by the method of seedling emergence. The seed bank had 47 species, with a predominance of herbaceous plants. Seasonal variation in richness and seed density in the soil (leaf litter + soil) was not significant, but 42 species of the mature forest were absent from the seed bank of the young forest, despite 17 years of natural regeneration and its proximity to the mature forest. On its own, the soil has greater richness and density of seeds than the leaf litter. The depth of seed deposition in the soil bank of the young forest significantly explained 36% of the species richness and 16% of the seed density, with a significant interaction effect with the climatic season only on species richness, explaining 4% of the variation recorded. The seed density of the young forest (1 277seeds/m2) was greater than that the mature forest indicating that the time abandoned had not yet been sufficient for complete recovery of plant diversity and there is no longer any seed limitation of pioneer species for regeneration of the young forest.
Keywords: semiarid, young forests, savanna, natural regeneration, resilience