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Seed survival for three decades under thick tephra

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2010

Shiro Tsuyuzaki*
Graduate School of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 060-0810, Japan
*Correspondence Fax: +81 11 706 2283 Email:


Seed longevity in situ is a prerequisite for understanding the life histories and community dynamics of species, although long-term longevity under thick tephra has not been documented because of a lack of opportunity and/or awareness. The seed bank for this study was estimated by both germination and flotation tests. Seeds of 17 species have survived with high density, having been buried under thick tephra for 30 years, since the 1977–1978 eruptions on Mount Usu, Hokkaido Island, northern Japan. The total seed density was >1000/m2. Rumex obtusifolius was the most common seed-bank species for 30 years, but decreased in density between 20 and 30 years. More seeds of Hypericum erectum occurred in deeper soil. The total seed density decreased gradually for 30 years, but H. erectum and Juncus effusus did not decline. Native seeds tended to be viable longer than exotic seeds. These results suggest that small, native seeds tend to survive longer with deep burial, while the more numerous weedy, exotic seeds located at the soil surface declined faster. The seed bank provides long-term monitoring of seed survival under natural conditions, and could be used to detect genetic changes.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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