A comparative study of the seed bank dynamics of two congeneric alien invasive species

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University of Cape Town

The unique vegetation in the lowlands of the fynbos biome is threatened by alien Acacia encroachment. The seed bank dynamics of the two most widespread invaders in the region, Acacia saligma and A. cyclops, was studied to elucidate those factors contributing most to their invasive success. This information was then used to assist in developing optimal control methods. On the basis of information available prior to this study, it was predicted that both species would have large, persistent seed banks in the so.il, and that seed bank processes would provide the - key to invasive success: namely, high seed longevity and heat-stimulated germination. Seed banks were monitored for several years following clearing of the parent stand, using either sites sampled in an earlier study, or sites providing chronosequences of clearing dates. Concurrently, a demographic study of the species' seed banks, including processes from seed rain through to seedling emergence and survival, was done in dense Acacia stands and in fynbos vegetation. Acacia saligma seed banks conformed to predictions, being large and persistent owing to high percentage viability and water-impermeable dormancy. Seed banks accumulate rapidly under dense stands and are "disturbance-coupled" as they have potentially high longevity unless stimulated to germinate by fire. Although A. cyclops seed banks also may be large and long-lived, they display variable percentage viability and dormancy, with the majority of a seed cohort surviving less than a year. Acacia cyclops seed banks do not respond to heat treatment and appear to be "disturbance-uncoupled".

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