Seed banks in a degraded desert shrubland : Influence of soil surface condition and harvester ant activity on seed abundance

DeFalco, L A
Esque, T C
Kane, J M
Nicklas, M B
Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Year: 
We compared seed banks between two contrasting anthropogenic surface disturbances (compacted, trenched) and adjacent undisturbed controls to determine whether site condition influences viable seed densities of perennial and annual Mojave Desert species. Viable seeds of perennials were rare in undisturbed areas (3-4 seeds/m2) and declined to 1 seed/m2 within disturbed sites. Annual seed densities were an order of magnitude greater than those of perennials, were one-third the undisturbed seed densities on compacted sites, but doubled on trenched sites relative to controls. On trenched sites, greater litter cover comprising the infructescences of the dominant spring annuals, and low gravel content, enhanced seed densities of both annuals and perennials. Litter cover and surface ruggedness were the best explanations for viable perennial seed densities on compacted sites, but litter cover and the presence of a common harvester ant explained annual seed densities better than any other surface characteristics that were examined. Surface disturbances can have a varied impact on the condition of the soil surface in arid lands. Nevertheless, the consistently positive relationship between ground cover of litter and viable seed density emphasizes the importance of litter as an indicator of site degradation and recovery potential in arid lands.
Name of Journal: 
Journal of Arid Environments
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.