Relationship between community structure and seed bank to describe successional dynamics of an Atlantic Coast maritime forest.
Relationships between current community composition and the soil seed bank were investigated within a maritime forest on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Forty families, 48 genera, and 52 species were documented in the current community. Three overstory species (Liquidambar styraciflua, Acer rubrum, and Pinus taeda) were dominants and comprised 72% of all overstory trees sampled. Analysis of stem size classes indicated that P. taeda was not recruiting and would eventually be replaced by hardwoods. Ilex opaca, Toxicodendron radicans, and Lonicera japonica comprised the majority of cover in the understory. The forest was in a mid-successional seral stage. In comparison, 31 families, 43 genera, and 45 species were identified from the seed bank. Seed bank composition was largely distinct from the aboveground community, although seven tree species that emerged from the seed bank were present in the overstory. Dissimilarity between the present community and seed bank indicated that replacement of existing species is likely to occur from future seed rain, especially from bird-dispersal. Presence of invasive species within the overstory, understory, and seed bank may alter forest succession.