Soil Seed Bank Dynamics: History and Ecological Significance in Sustainability of Different Ecosystems

  • Upama Mall
  • Gopal S. Singh


The existence and potential importance of the soil seed bank have been recognized by ecologists and evolutionary biologists since the dawn of modern biology, from Darwin (1859) to Mall and Singh (2011) and Hong et al. (2012). The earlier studies of soil seed banks began in 1859 with Darwin, when he observed the emergence of seedlings using soil samples from the bottom of a lake. However, the first paper published as a scientific research report was written by Putersen in 1882, studying the occurrence of seeds at different soil depths (Roberts 1981). Very early ecologists started to investigate the nature and the density of living seeds in the soil and the soil seed bank (Darwin 1859; Chippindale and Milton 1934; Nordhagen 1937; Bannister 1966; Barclay-Estrup and Gimingham 1975), and in modern times to determine the significance of soil seeds in the regeneration of different plant communities (Thompson and Grime 1979; Roberts 1981; Mallik et al. 1984; Simpson et al. 1989; Thompson et al. 1997; Miller and Cummins 2001; Lemenih and Teketay 2006; Tessema et al. 2011b; Mall and Singh 2001; Hong et al. 2012) and the similarity between the soil seed bank and aboveground vegetation (Tessema et al. 2011b). A soil seed bank, which begins at dispersal and ends with the germination or death of the seed (Walck et al. 2005), is a reserve of mature viable seeds located on the soil surface or buried in the soil (Roberts 1981) that provides a memory of past vegetation and represents the structure of future populations (Fisher et al. 2009). Seeds are a crucial and integral part of an ecosystem that show the past history of standing vegetation and its future deviation. An understanding of the population dynamics of buried viable seeds is of practical importance in conservation of different communities and weed management in agriculture (Fenner 1985; Fenner and Thompson 2005). The balance between trees and grasses, however, is often highly disturbed as a consequence of heavy grazing and poor management (Pugnaire and Lazaro 2000). This study aimed to gain a better understanding of soil seed bank dynamics in different ecosystems of the world. All plants establish themselves by the expansion and subsequent fragmentation of vegetative parts such as tillers, rhizomes, or runners by the successful establishment of a soil seed bank or bulbils (Freedman et al. 1982). During the past decade, there has been a rapid increase of the number of studies assessing seed density and species richness and the composition of soil seed banks in a wide range of plant communities (Thompson et al. 1997). In India, the soil seed bank has been estimated in humid tropical forest (Chandrashekara and Ramakrishnan 1993), grasslands, irrigated and dry land agro-ecosystems (Srivastava 2002), tropical dry forest (Khare 2006), jhum cultivation (Saxena and Ramakrishnan 1984; Sahoo 1996), Himalayan moist temperate forest (Viswanth et al. 2006), and wastelands and roadsides (Yadav and Tripathi 1981).


Seed Bank Perennial Grass Viable Seed Soil Seed Bank Seed Rain 
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© Springer India 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyBanaras Hindu UniversityVaranasiIndia
  2. 2.Institute of Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentBanaras Hindu UniversityVaranasiIndia

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