Effects of elevated nitrogen and exotic plant invasion on soil seed bank composition in Joshua Tree National Park.
We investigated the effects of exotic species invasion and 3 years of nitrogen (N) fertilization on the soil seed bank in Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA at four sites along an N deposition gradient. We compared seed bank composition and density in control (no N added) and fertilized (30 kg N ha-1 year-1) plots to determine if the seed bank would reflect aboveground changes due to N fertilization. Soil samples were collected and germinated in a greenhouse over 2 years. In the field, invasive species cover responded positively to N fertilization. However, we did not observe increased seed density of exotic invasive species in fertilized plots. While no significant differences were detected between treatments within sites, exotic invasive grass seeds overwhelmed the seed bank at all sites. Significant differences between sites were found, which may be due to differences in level of invasion, historic N deposition, and soil surface roughness. Sites experiencing low N deposition had the highest seed bank species richness for both control and fertilized treatments. Aboveground plant density did not correlate well with seed bank density, possibly due to the inherent patchiness of soil seed banks and differential ability of species to form seed banks. This seed bank study provided insight into site-specific impacts on native versus invasive species composition of soil seed banks, as well as magnitude of invasion and restoration potential at invaded sites.