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Persistent soil seed bank and standing vegetation at a high alpine site in the central Chilean Andes

Abstract

The persistent soil seed bank (viable seeds >1 year) and standing vegetation were investigated in the upper alpine belt (3250 m) in the Andes of central Chile, 33° S. Nine species (eight in standing vegetation) were found in a total persistent seed bank of 899 seeds m−2. Seven additional species were represented by physically intact, non-viable seeds. Over 90% of the persistent seed bank was concentrated in Montiopsis sericea (Portulacaceae), Pozoa coriacea (Umbelliferae), Phacelia secunda (Hydrophyllaceae) and Oxalis compacta (Oxalidaceae). Examination of the seed/cover ratio revealed different propensities for persistent seed bank formation among species, and annuals formed persistent seed banks more frequently than perennial species. Abundance in the standing vegetation had predictive value for abundance in the persistent seed bank only when non-persistent seed bank species in the standing vegetation were discarded from the analysis. At the local scale, species diversity in the persistent seed bank and standing vegetation were correlated, but compositional similarity was low. Secondary down-slope dispersal promoted by frost heaving in combination with runoff, and life-form correlates are discussed as possible factors accounting for poor correspondence between the persistent seed bank and the standing vegetation at a local scale. The high Andean seed bank is similar to or larger than that reported for two Arctic tundra sites, but smaller than for a northern hemisphere subalpine site. If seed bank size is considered in relation to plant cover, the Andean seed bank greatly exceeds that of one Arctic site. Our study constitutes the first demonstration of a sizable persistent seed bank at an alpine site in the South American Andes and in southern hemisphere temperate mountains in general.

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Received: 26 May 1998 / Accepted: 21 November 1998

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Kalin Arroyo, M., Cavieres, L., Castor, C. et al. Persistent soil seed bank and standing vegetation at a high alpine site in the central Chilean Andes. Oecologia 119, 126–132 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004420050768

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  • Key words Alpine zone
  • Andes
  • Phenology
  • Seed bank
  • Standing vegetation