Our research was conducted on abandoned fields which had been undergoing spontaneous succession for 40–50 years and then were partly burnt. The main objective of the study was to examine if spontaneous fire in the early successional stage of pine forest causes a decrease in the number of species, diversity and density of seed banks, and an increase in the share of species forming long term persistent seed banks. Standing vegetation and soil seed banks were studied on 20 permanent plots on adjacent burnt and unburnt sites one and twelve years after spontaneous fire. One year after the fire the number of species in the seed banks of both areas was similar (11 and 12 species). In the burnt area the Shannon index and the floristical similarity between the seed bank and standing vegetation were lower, and seed density five times higher than in the unburnt area (15 691.5 m-2 vs.3426.5 m-2). This was mainly the effect of the high number of seedlings of Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull and Spergula morisonii Boreau germinating from the burnt plots. Twelve years after the fire the number of species in both seed banks had increased little, but seed density in the burnt area (1742.5 m-2) had decreased 16 times, while that of the unburnt area had changed only slightly (2875.5 m-2). At the same time the Shannon index for the burnt area increased considerably whereas, for the unburnt one it did not change. Our study shows that the long-term persistent soil seed bank plays a fundamental role at the beginning of the post-fire regeneration of temperate coniferous forest vegetation. Germination of Calluna seedlings from the burnt soil seed banks in several times higher numbers than from unburnt soil seed banks may suggest that heat from the fire promotes a loss of dormancy in the heather seeds.
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Vol. 62 • No. 3