Seed bank spatial pattern was studied in a secondary forest dominated by Fagus sylvatica and Betula celtiberica in the Urkiola Natural Park (N Spain). Soil samples were taken every 2 m in a regular grid (196 points) and divided into two fractions (0-3 cm and 3-10 cm deep). The viable seed bank was studied by monitoring seedling emergence for ten months. The effect of different factors on seed bank composition and patterning was analysed using constrained ordination as a hypothesis testing tool. Furthermore, the existence of spatial autocorrelation was evaluated by geostatistical analysis. Seed density was high, 7057 seed.m−2, with a few species dominating. Species composition in the various layers were significantly correlated. The seed bank showed significant spatial structure, which was partially explainable by the spatial structure of the canopy and understorey vegetation. Spatial clumping from 0-8 m was observed in seed bank density and composition, mainly due to the pattern of two abundant taxa Juncus effusus and Ericaceae. The Ericaceae seed bank was related to the spatial distribution of dead stumps of Erica arborea. J. effusus was not present in the above-ground vegetation, which indicates that its seed bank was formed in the past. As expected, the seed bank of this forest reflects its history, which is characterized by complex man-induced perturbations. The seed bank appears to be structured as a consequence of contrasting driving forces such as canopy structure, understorey composition and structural and microhabitat features.
Abbreviations: TVE = Total variance explained.
Nomenclature: Aizpuru et al. (1999).