Prescribed fire and thinning are commonly employed management practices in mixed-oak forests of the central Appalachians. The effects of these practices on the soil seed bank are important to consider in order to evaluate the full impact of these treatments on plant community dynamics in the understory. Species composition of the soil seed bank was examined under three treatments: thin, burn, and thin followed by burning, and an untreated control. Thinning was conducted in Fall 2000, and burns were conducted in Spring 2001. Soil samples were collected in March 2004, three years following treatment. Species composition was assessed by seedling emergence. Seventy total species were found in the seed bank. Ruderal species such as Erechtites hieraciifolia, Carex spp., and Rubus spp. were the most commonly occurring species across all treatments. No significant difference in species composition or proportion of functional groups was found between any of the treatment groups. However, as found in previous studies, species composition of the seed bank and aboveground vegetation were significantly different in all treatments. Species composition and canopy cover were each significantly spatially autocorrelated in the thinned and burned treatment. While thinning and burning did not produce detectable changes in the species composition of the soil seed bank at these sites, they may influence the spatial heterogeneity of the soil seed bank.
soil seed bank