The University of Arizona

Grazing effects on germinable seeds on the fescue prairie.

W.D. Willms, D.A. Quinton


The germinable seed bank in a grassland affects the succession of degraded range and the recolonization of disturbed sites, and must be understood to predict potential responses to management. The germinable seed bank on the fescue prairie was characterized and its relationship to grazing, season, and depth of burial determined. The study was conducted in the fescue prairie of southwestern Alberta in livestock exclosures and on paddocks that, since 1949, have been stocked at fixed rates to achieve light, moderate, or heavy grazing pressures. Surface debris was sampled in fall and spring, and soil was sampled to a depth of 6 cm in spring. The samples were spread on vermiculite in trays and the seeds allowed to germinate over a 90-day period. In fall, total surface seed numbers m(-2) increased from 1,785 to 7,783 from the ungrazed to heavily grazed site, and most of the differences were accounted for by whitlow-grass (Draba spp.) and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.). These species also contributed most to differences between fall and spring on the grazed sites. Total seed numbers were similar (1,790 vs 1,803) in spring and fall on ungrazed sites. The species composition of the seed bank did not change with depth. In the soil, the annual forb pygmyflower (Androsace septentrionalis L.) was the most common seed but was not detected in a vegetation survey. Soil disturbance in the fescue prairie is more likely to lead to a seral community dominated by annual forbs, than a rough fescue (Festuca campestris Rydb.) dominated grassland.


soil surface;seed banks;Festuca campestris;Alberta;stocking rate;grazing intensity;seed germination;prairies;seasonal variation;botanical composition;grazing;prairie soils

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