Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Natural Sciences/Centre for Ecosystem Management
Although studies of seed banks in arid ecosystems are commonplace, they are lacking for the large arid zone of Western Australia. Across the six major plant communities fringing a large salt lake within this zone, topsoil (0-5 cm depth) was collected from 12 to 36 sites per community. Samples were dried, spread out on a bed of vermiculite in seedling trays and placed in a well-watered glasshouse to determine the readily germinable component of the soil seed bank. Subsamples of topsoil were treated with smoke water, hot water or flooding to help determine seed bank of species with dormancy mechanisms. As with other studies of arid seed banks, large numbers of grasses and forbs emerged from the topsoil, with relatively small numbers of woody perennial species and hummock grasses (Triodia spp.) present, even in communities where such species were dominant. There were, however, a few exceptions where a reasonable density of dominant trees/shrub seed was present in topsoil. Soil treatment generally had limited effect on composition and density of emergent seedlings. Although floristic similarity between soil seed banks and corresponding above-ground vegetation was modest, there were clear differences in soil seed bank composition between communities. The implications of the results for using topsoils to restore landforms of the study area after mining or other disturbance are discussed.