Seed Science Research

Research Article

Three seedling emergence methods in soil seed bank studies: implications for interpretation of propagule deposition in riparian zones

Angela Gurnella1 c1, Joanne Goodsona1 p1, Ken Thompsona2, Owen Mountforda3 and Nick Clifforda4

a1 Department of Geography, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK

a2 Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

a3 CEH Monk's Wood, Abbots Rippon, Huntingdon, Cambridgshire PE28 2LS, UK

a4 School of Geography, The University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK


Samples of soil and recently deposited sediments were collected from the river bed, bank face and bank tops of two lengths (reaches) of the River Frome, Dorset, UK and one reach of the River Tern, Shropshire, UK. Soil propagule bank samples were collected in May 2003, and depositional samples were collected subsequently over four consecutive 4-month periods between June 2003 and October 2004. The samples were subjected to three emergence trials under drained, waterlogged and submerged conditions. Significantly more seedlings germinated in the drained than waterlogged trial, and waterlogged than submerged trials. Drained, waterlogged and submerged trials identified 186, 76 and 37 species, respectively. Six species identified in the waterlogged trials were not identified in the drained trials, and five species in the submerged trials were not found in the drained trials. Submerged trials added two species to the drained and waterlogged results. Application of detrended correspondence analysis (DCA) to average species abundance data, for the sampled hydrological habitats (bed, bank face, bank top) within the soil propagule bank and four depositional data sets, generated different results for the three trials. The drained treatment revealed significant differences between sites, seasons and hydrological habitats, whereas the waterlogged and submerged treatments presented an increasingly homogeneous view of the samples. Our results confirm other propagule bank emergence comparisons and extend them to depositional samples, demonstrating that the strong environmental sieves imposed by waterlogging and submergence restrict emergence of numerous terrestrial, wetland and even some aquatic species that were successfully identified using the drained conditions.

(Received August 21 2006)

(Accepted April 16 2007)


c1 Correspondence Fax: 020 7848 1319 Email:

p1 Current address: Entec UK Ltd., Gable House, Kenilworth Road, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire CV32 6JX, UK