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Landscape fragmentation studies focused on vegetation have played a crucial role in advancing conservation, land management, and restoration approaches. However, the seedbank, a soil’s reservoir of viable seeds or propagules able to potentially regenerate vegetation above ground, have largely been ignored. Despite their usefulness in furthering our understanding of successional mechanisms, ecological restoration and management, the effects of fragmentation on seedbank community structure and species richness are still unknown. Further, the biological and theoretical framework established for above ground vegetation cannot be assumed to fully apply to seedbanks due to the biological and abiotic driven mediation of similarity between the two. Thus, it follows that seedbanks potentially respond differently to fragmentation. In this paper, I examine the effects of fragmentation on the diversity and community composition of seedbanks, using 2014 seedbank data collected from an experimentally fragmented landscape in Kansas University’s Nelson Environmental Study Area, a 12 ha experimentally fragmented landscape established in 1984 to study the spatial dynamics of succession. Specifically, I address the following questions: (1) how does patch size and plot location effect seedbanks density and species richness? (2) does patch size and plot location effect seedbank community composition? (3) what are possible drivers of differences in the community composition in seedbanks? While I found a lack of significant differences in seedbank richness based on patch size or plot location, there were significant differences in community composition based on patch size and plot location, which were further explored through an indicator species analysis and a confirmed spatial auto-correlation. Thought to be able to mitigate the effects of fragmentation through their ability to maintain ecological diversity and the coexistence of species, seedbanks could provide a useful tool in the future recovery or stabilization of plant communities. Thus, seedbanks are in need of more intensive study to help discern their potential ecological role in an increasingly fragmented landscape.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Roberts, Julie Marie, "The Effects of Plot Size and Location on Seedbank Richness and Community Composition in an Experimentally Fragmented Landscape" (2018). Senior Projects Fall 2018. 2.