Effects of degradation and species composition on soil seed density in the alpine grasslands, China

Chunming Li, Jiahui Ma, Liangyu Li, Junlin Huang, Jinhua Lu, Mei Huang, Allan Degen, Zhanhuan Shang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Grassland degradation can alter the structure and function of ecosystem and soil seed bank. Therefore, estimating the role of soil seed bank in vegetation regeneration of degraded grasslands is crucial. We selected grasslands with three levels of degradation, namely non-degraded (ND), mildly degraded (MD), and heavily degraded (HD) to analyze the effect of grassland degradation on soil seed bank, as well as the role of soil seed bank on vegetation regeneration of the alpine grasslands, China. Soil samples from each level were collected in May, before seedling emergence, in August, after completion of transient seed bank germination, and in December, after seed dispersal, to determine the seed density and species composition through germination experiment. Result showed that a total of 35 plant species was identified, including 15 species observed in both soil seed bank and above-ground vegetation. A total of 19, 15, and 14 species of soil seed bank were identified in December, May, and August, respectively. The most abundant species in soil seed bank were Compositae (5 species), followed by Poaceae (4 species), and Cyperaceae (3 species). Degradation level has no significant impact on species richness and Shannon-Wiener index of soil seed bank. In addition, sampling month and grassland degradation affected soil seed bank density, in which December>May>August, and ND>MD>HD, indicating that density of transient seed bank was greater than persistent seed bank. Soil seed bank density of surface layer (0–5 cm) accounting for 42%–72% of the total density, which was significantly higher than that of deep layer (5–10 cm). Similarity of species composition between vegetation and soil seed bank was low, and it increased with degradation level (ranged from 0.14 to 0.69). We concluded that grassland degradation affects soil seed bank density more than species diversity, and soil seed bank contributed slightly to vegetation regeneration of degraded alpine grassland. Therefore, it is unlikely that degraded alpine meadow can be restored solely through soil seed bank.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1510-1528
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Arid Land
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • degradation
  • persistent soil seed bank
  • seed density
  • transient soil seed bank
  • vegetation regeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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