Published May 24, 2022 | Version v1
Dataset Open

European soil seed bank communities across a climate and land-cover gradient

  • 1. Stockholm University
  • 2. Research Institute for Nature and Forest
  • 3. Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
  • 4. Pontifical Xavierian University
  • 5. University of Groningen
  • 6. University of Copenhagen
  • 7. National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment
  • 8. University of Picardie Jules Verne
  • 9. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • 10. KU Leuven
  • 11. University West
  • 12. University of Tartu
  • 13. University of Liverpool
  • 14. Soil Conservation Service of Iceland*
  • 15. Linköping University
  • 16. James Hutton Institute
  • 17. University of Sheffield
  • 18. University of Bergen
  • 19. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
  • 20. Sari Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources University
  • 21. Jan Kochanowski University
  • 22. Norwegian University of Life Sciences
  • 23. Heidelberg University
  • 24. Mediterranean Institute of Marine and Terrestrial Biodiversity and Ecology
  • 25. University of Regensburg
  • 26. Durham University


This is the data set used for the publication Buffering effects of soil seed banks on plant community composition in response to land use and climate, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Aim. Climate and land use are key determinants of biodiversity, with past and ongoing changes posing serious threats to global ecosystems. Unlike most other organism groups, plant species can possess dormant life-history stages such as soil seed banks, which may help plant communities to resist or at least postpone the detrimental impact of global changes. This study investigates the potential for soil seed banks to achieve this.

Location. Europe

Time period. 1978 – 2014

Major taxa studied. Flowering plants

Methods. Using a space-for-time/warming approach, we study plant species richness and composition in the herb layer and the soil seed bank in 2796 community plots from 54 datasets in managed grasslands, forests and intermediate, successional habitats across a climate gradient.

Results. Soil seed banks held more species than the herb layer, being compositionally similar across habitats. Species richness was lower in forests and successional habitats compared to grasslands, with annual temperature range more important than mean annual temperature for determining richness. Climate and land use effects were generally less pronounced when plant community richness included seed bank species richness, while there was no clear effect of land use and climate on compositional similarity between the seed bank and the herb layer.

Main conclusions. High seed bank diversity and compositional similarity between the herb layer and seed bank plant communities may provide a potentially important functional buffer against the impact of ongoing environmental changes on plant communities. This capacity could, however, be threatened by climate warming. Dormant life-history stages can therefore be important sources of diversity in changing environments, potentially underpinning already observed time-lags in plant community responses to global change. However, as soil seed banks themselves appear, albeit less, vulnerable to the same changes, their potential to buffer change can only be temporary, and major community shifts may still be expected.


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Funding provided by: Natural Environment Research Council
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: NE/D00036X/1

Funding provided by: Norges Forskningsråd
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: 184912,73758/410,156325/530

Funding provided by: Svenska Forskningsrådet Formas
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: 2015‐1065,2018‐00961

Funding provided by: Vetenskapsrådet
Crossref Funder Registry ID:

Funding provided by: Östersjöstiftelsen
Crossref Funder Registry ID:


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