Successional trends in soil seed banks of abandoned pastures of a Neotropical dry region.
A chronosequence was used to study seed-bank communities during the first 12 y of tropical-dry-forest regeneration in abandoned pastures in Chamela, Mexico. Prediction that seeds of woody species replace those of herbaceous species during succession was tested and mechanisms of species replacement (facilitation, tolerance, inhibition) were assessed. Four successional categories (three sites each) were considered: pasture (0-1 y since abandonment), early (3-5 y), intermediate (10-12 y), and old-growth forest. At the end of the dry season, 20 cylindrical soil samples (10 cm diameter, 15 cm depth) were randomly obtained within a 20×50-m plot in each site. Seeds ≥1 mm were counted and identified. Overall, 2941 seeds and 102 morphospecies (52 taxonomically identified) were recorded. Seed bank density reduced, species diversity remained fairly constant and seeds of herbaceous species were replaced by those of woody species over the chronosequence. A clear species-by-species replacement pattern was detected, as expected under a mechanism of succession by facilitation. Twelve years after abandonment, a diverse seed bank of woody species did exist, indicating a fast recovery of the tropical-dry-forest regenerative potential; nonetheless, the structure and composition of the seed bank was still different from that in the old-growth forest.