The impact of seed deficiency on productivity and on negative drought effect in semi‐natural grassland

Stampfli, Andreas; Zeiter, Michaela (2020). The impact of seed deficiency on productivity and on negative drought effect in semi‐natural grassland Journal of Vegetation Science, 31(6), pp. 1066-1078. John Wiley & Sons 10.1111/jvs.12889

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Questions Vegetative re‐sprouting and recruitment from seed determine grassland recovery after severe drought, but the mechanisms determining vegetation composition are not fully understood. We ask how the timing of drought and seed availability modify the drought legacy effects on composition and function in a temperate, semi‐natural grassland. Location Negrentino, southern Alps, Switzerland. Methods Under automated rainout shelters, we simulated extreme seasonal drought events in a late summer and in the following spring, added rainwater to simulate normal conditions in no‐drought controls and maintained haymaking at times of normal practice. Towards the end of the summer drought, we added seeds of ten local species in a three‐factor split‐plot arrangement with seven blocks as the replicated unit. We measured fine‐scale variation in soil depth. We assessed the biomass of graminoids and forbs at regular harvesting dates and the species frequencies of established plants and recruits before treatment start, repeating these assessments for three years thereafter. We measured the biomass proportions of post‐drought annual recruit cohorts in year 4 after drought. Results One‐time seed addition augmented recruits, modified species composition and enhanced species diversity; these effects propagated to increased reproductive shoots of recruits and community biomass four years later. Single and repeated seasonal droughts only caused low adult plant mortality but clearly reduced recruitment from seed, while post‐drought establishment was slightly enhanced. Seed augmentation compensated the negative spring drought effect on forb recruits and in turn mitigated the negative impact of drought on species diversity after drought. Conclusions Our experiment shows that seed deficiency limits productivity and that seed deficiency compensation can help to stabilize diversity and productivity in semi‐natural grassland. Releasing the current constraints of management on seed supply in grassland would therefore assist in mitigating negative drought impacts.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Agriculture
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Agriculture > Grasslands and Ruminant Production Systems


Stampfli, Andreas and
Zeiter, Michaela


Q Science > QK Botany
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture




John Wiley & Sons




Simon Lutz

Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2021 07:37

Last Modified:

26 Sep 2021 02:18

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

drought, hay meadow, plant community, rainout shelter, recovery, recruitment, resilience, resistance, seed addition, semi-natural grassland, species diversity, vegetation dynamic




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