Soil seed bank composition along a forest chronosequence in seasonally moist tropical forest, Panama

J. W. Dalling, J. S. Denslow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used a forest chronosequence at the Barro Colorado Nature Monument (BCNM) to examine changes in the abundance and species composition of seeds in the soil during forest succession. At each of eight sites varying from 20 yr to 100 yr since abandonment, and at two old-growth (> 500 yr) forest stands, we established two 160-m transects and sampled the surface 0 - 3 cm of soil in cores collected at each 5 m interval. Seed densities were estimated from the number of seedlings germinated from the soil over a six-week period. Contrary to expectation, neither the density of the soil seed bank, nor species richness or diversity were directly related to age since abandonment, but the density of the soil seed bank was correlated with the abundance of seed-bank-forming species in the standing vegetation. In marked contrast to published studies, herbaceous taxa were rare even in the youngest stands, and the common tree species, which accounted for most seeds in the soil, were present in all stands. The pioneer tree Miconia argentea (Melastomataceae) was the single most common species in the seed bank, accounting for 62% of seeds and present in 92% of soil samples. Rapid recovery of the vegetation of young regrowth stands on BCNM, when compared to sites elsewhere may be partly due to allochthonous seed rain from nearby mature forest stands and the lack of seed inputs of weeds and grasses from agricultural and pasture lands which may inhibit forest succession.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-678
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Barro Colorado Nature Monument
  • Forest regeneration
  • Forest succession
  • Germinable-seed bank
  • Pioneer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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