To provide more insights into the responses of the soil seed bank and vegetation to human disturbance intensity, we selected four land use types, including: native grassland (no human disturbance), abandoned artificial grassland (light human disturbance), artificial grassland (moderate human disturbance), and farmland (severe human disturbance) in a semi-arid climate of northern China. The species composition and density of the soil seed bank were measured, as well as the species composition and amount of vegetation. The native grassland had a significantly higher soil seed density and species richness than the other land use types. Moreover, the common species both in the soil seed bank and vegetation between the native grassland and other land use types gradually decreased as disturbance intensity increased. The abandoned artificial grassland and artificial grassland still had abundant soil seed banks according to their seed density (≥28.2% of the native grassland) and species richness (≥70.0% of the native grassland) to restore the vegetation. Conversely, it was hard to restore the vegetation on the farmland due to its low soil seed density (10.0% of the native grassland) and species richness (40.0% of the native grassland). In conclusion, human disturbance would generate significant negative effects on the soil seed bank in desertified regions in a semi-arid climate; however, the soil seed bank in land use types with light/moderate disturbance are more adapted to vegetation restoration compared with land use types with severe disturbance in a semi-arid region.
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