The soil seed bank is an important ecological component of grassland restoration and renewal. In semiarid regions, grassland restoration and renewal are highly affected by annual variations in precipitation and grazing activity because these variations can affect the composition, density, richness, and diversity of seeds in the soil. This study aimed to characterize and compare these parameters of the germinable seed bank under different stocking rates in a winter grazing system in a semiarid area of China in 2015 and 2016 (dry and near-average rainfall condition, respectively). The composition, density, richness, and diversity of seeds were determined by the method of seedling emergence. The results showed that a total of 18 species belonging to nine families germinated from the soil. Drought significantly reduced the density, richness, and diversity of the soil seed bank, but grazing was able to significantly increase the richness and diversity of the soil seed bank by increasing the richness and diversity of the aboveground vegetation. The similarity between the soil seed bank and aboveground vegetation was influenced by the rainfall conditions: in the dry year, it was higher at the lower stocking rates (0 and 0.4 animal unit months [AUM] ha–1), and in the near-average rainfall condition year, it was higher at the higher stocking rates (0.8 and 1.3 AUM ha–1).
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