Soil seed bank characteristics in two central African forest types and implications for forest restoration. Forest Ecology and Management 409, 766–776
This study evaluates the characteristics of soil seed bank in two types of central African rainforests: Celtis forest on clay soils and Manilkara forest on sandy soils. In each study site, 30 samples were collected per soil layers (litter, 0–5 cm, 5–10 cm and 10–20 cm depth). The species diversity and abundance of the soil seed bank were estimated after soil samples were brought to germination. We globally observed 297 seedlings of 53 species for the Celtis forest and 222 seedlings of 39 species for the Manilkara forest. The total densities of germinated seeds were 330 seedlingsm−2 and 247 seedlingsm−2, respectively. Herbaceous species dominated with percentages of 41.0 and 45.3%, respectively in the Manilkara forest and the Celtis forest. Both forest types displayed a regeneration potential through the soil seed bank. However, this potential seems higher in the Celtis forest. Pioneer taxa were more abundant in the soil seed bank of the Celtis forest (13 woody pioneer species) than the Manilkara forest (9 woody pioneer species). The values of Sorensen similarity index between the standing tree vegetation and the soil seed bank in each site were relatively low: 11.0% for the Celtis forest and 8.8% for the Manilkara forest. But these similarity values were higher when only the pioneer species were considered: 46.8% in the Celtis forest and 38.9% in the Manilkara forest. The highest species richness were obtained in the first two soil layers (0–10 cm depth) while 21.8% and 21.4% of the species were exclusively found in the deepest layer (10–20 cm) in the Celtis forest and the Manilkara forest, respectively. Among the timber species found in the forest, only three were observed in the soil seed bank of the two sites: Nauclea diderrichii, Erythrophleum suaveolens and Staudtia kamerunensis. N. diderrichii was particularly abundant in the soil seed stock of the two sites (14.4–34.4 seedsm−2). Results suggested that to improve regeneration of timber species, planting in open forest habitats with seedlings coming from tree nursery should be more efficient.