Published in Journal of Vegetation Science Vol. 6, No. 6 (1995): 825-836.


The germinable soil seed bank is described from a coastal barrier island off the northwest coast of Florida, USA. Soil samples collected from seven vegetation types, recently deposited dredge spoil and unvegetated areas in autumn 1990 and spring 1991 were placed out in greenhouse trays. 110 taxa germinated from the samples with the largest number (41) being C3 perennial dicots. The largest number of taxa germinated from dry (57) and wet (54) swales, the fewest (one species: Heterotheca subaxillaris) from strand. Similarity of seed bank densities to above-ground species cover was low (Jaccard’s Index = 0.36), not different between vegetation types, but higher in the autumn than in the following spring. Compositional gradients in the seed bank and above-ground vegetation determined using DCA ordination were highly correlated and related to distance from mean high water, and plot elevation. At the landscape scale, the seed bank provided an equally clear delineation of vegetation types to that based upon the above-ground vegetation. The seed bank of low disturbance, late-succession vegetation types (wooded dunes, swales, marshes) was well developed (high species richness, emergent density, and percentage annual species) with the exception that the large-seeded woody species (i.e. Quercus spp.) were absent from the wooded dune seed bank. By contrast, a poorly developed and transient seed bank occurred in more frequently disturbed (extensive sand movement, salt spray), early successional dredge spoil, unvegetated areas and strand. These contrasts support a general pattern of increasing seed bank development and a persistent rather than transient seed bank with decreasing disturbance frequency, increasing time since disturbance and successional maturity.