Smoke and heat effects on soil seed bank germination for the re-establishment of a native forest community in New South Wales

T. R. Read, S. M. Bellairs, D. R. Mulligan, D. Lamb

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97 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of plant-derived smoke and of heat on the emergence of seedlings from seeds were assessed. Seeds had been stored in forest topsoil used for mine site rehabilitation. The study was carried out in a dry sclerophyll, spotted gum (Corymbia maculata), forest community at the Mount Owen open-cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. Samples of the surface 2.5 cm of topsoil were either exposed to cool smoke from eucalypt foliage for 60 min, heated to 80°C, or left untreated. Seedling emergence from the seed bank in this soil was then monitored in a glasshouse. Within the first month, smoke alone promoted a 4.3-fold increase in the density of seedlings relative to control. There were 540 emergents per m2 in the control and 2309 per m2 in the smoke treated topsoil. Many annual and perennial herbs emerged but grasses responded most strongly to smoke. Germination in seven of the 20 grass species was promoted by smoke. Smoke promoted the germination of some introduced species as well as native species, and accelerated the rate at which seedlings emerged, although these differences sometimes declined with time. Heat also stimulated germination but smoke and heat stimuli appeared to be complementary in their promotion of seedling emergence from the topsoil seed bank. Each treatment increased the density of different species, enhanced the species richness of different components of the seed bank, and had different effects on the rate of emergence. The results suggest that increased seed germination in the field immediately following a moderate intensity fire may sometimes be the result of smoke stimulation and sometimes the result of heat stimulation of the soil seed bank. These findings may have important implications for minesite revegetation programs where topsoils are replaced after mining and rapid germination of seeds stored in these soils is required during short periods when conditions are favourable for germination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2000
Externally publishedYes


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