The objectives of this study were to determine the composition, density and spatial distribution of the soil seed bank of woody species, as well as their regeneration pattern in two different land use systems, controlled (ranch) and open grazing, in an Acacia woodland of the Rift Valley in Ethiopia. We also compared the species composition of the soil seed bank and the above-ground vegetation to find out if differences exist in the soil seed bank and advance regeneration between the two land use systems. The germination requirements of seeds of the woody species were also investigated under laboratory conditions. Acacia senegal, Acacia seyal, Acacia tortilis, Dichrostacys cinerea and Balanites aegyptiaca were encountered in the above-ground vegetation in both systems. Seeds of only A. tortilis (90+/-32 seeds m -2 ) from the ranch, and A. senegal (5+/-3 seeds m -2 ) and A. tortilis (72+/-34 seeds m -2 ) from the open system were found in the soil seed bank along transects with patchy horizontal pattern. The two systems were not significantly different in density of soil seed banks of A. senegal andA. tortilis . Jaccard's similarity index showed that only a few woody species were common in the soil seed flora and above ground vegetation. However, all of the species accumulated seeds (58+/-43-331+/-130 seeds m -2 ) in/on the soil under the canopy. Very large numbers of seeds of A. tortilis (19382+/-9722 seeds m -2 ) and D. cinerea (1278+/-494 seeds m -2 ) were also found in barns. Most of the seeds recovered from the soil samples (60-80%) were found in the litter layer. Acid and mechanical scarification improved legume germination (36-99% and 60-99%, respectively) over boiling water (0-48%). Treatment means differed significantly for all the legumes (p<0.001) but not for Balanites. Height and diameter class distribution of regeneration of A. tortilis and D. cinerea in both systems and A. senegal in the open system had a negative exponential correlation (r s =-0.5, -0.25 and -0.86, respectively). A. seyal and B. aegyptiaca showed poor regeneration. Horizontal distribution of advance regeneration of all the species was patchy. Advance regeneration of A. seyal, A. tortilis and B. aegyptiaca were not significantly different, while that of A. senegal and D. cinerea were significantly different between the two systems. Poor representation of species in the soil seed bank along transects and in the different height and diameter classes may be attributed to the low density of mature trees as well as the mode and strategy of seed dispersal. Ungulate and wind dispersed species (e.g. A. senegal, A. tortilis and D. cinerea) were highly favoured. Patchiness in the distribution of seeds and advance regeneration was also a result of endozoochory. Dispersal of non-ungulate dispersed seeds (A. senegal, A. seyal and B. aegyptiaca) was restricted to the canopy zone. Piles of seeds ofA. tortilis and D. cinerea that were found in barns were a result of consumption of their pods by cattle. High concentration of seeds in the litter layer may be due to low soil disturbance and larger size of seeds. The height and diameter class distribution of A. senegal (in the open system), A. tortilis and D. cinerea also indicated that the species have good regeneration. Results from the germination tests indicated that seeds of the legumes require pre-sowing treatments to give a rapid, uniform and improved germination. Intervention through artificial regeneration should be employed to improve the density and regeneration capacity of those species with hampered regeneration at both systems.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.