NKFIH K 137573 (2021-2025)
Seed banks: Drivers of grassland resilience
Project leader: Péter Török
Grasslands are among the most widespread habitat types globally; Europe still harbours over 1 million km2 of grasslands, but only up to half of these grasslands can be considered to have high nature value. Understanding the dynamic processes in grasslands responsible for the sustainment of their biodiversity and ecosystem services is a crucial task.
Processes that are responsible for the ability of grasslands to spontaneously recover its composition and functioning after damage or degradation (= community resilience) is of crucial importance. One of the key component of grassland resilience is the soil seed banks, i.e. viable seeds accumulated in the upper soil layer. The composition and density of soil seed banks is dependent from many factors, such as site history, management type, degradation status, grassland type, altitude and climate. While some grassland types contain higher amounts of typical grassland species in soil seed banks, such as sandy and Mediterranean grasslands or fen meadows, others possess only sporadic seed banks. Compared to vegetation there is only scattered information available on the density and composition of grassland soil seed bank, but almost no information is available on its temporal development. In the present proposal, we aim to analyse the composition and density of soil seed banks in three grassland types along a stress and disturbance gradient. Our ultimate goals are (i) to clarify the role of soil seed banks in habitat-scale stress and disturbance driven dynamics of grasslands and (ii) to quantify the role and magnitude of soil seed banks in the spontaneous regeneration capacity of grasslands.