Seed rain and soil seed banks limit native regeneration within urban forest restoration plantings in Hamilton City, New Zealand
- Centre for Biodiversity and Ecology Research, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
Restoration of native forest vegetation in urban environments may be limited due to isolation from native seed sources and to the prevalence of exotic plant species. To investigate urban seed availability we recorded the composition of seed rain, soil seed banks and vegetation at native forest restoration plantings up to 36 years old in Hamilton City and compared these with naturally regenerating forest within the city and in a nearby rural native forest remnant. Seed rain, soil seed banks (fern spores inclusive) and understorey vegetation in urban forest were found to have higher exotic species richness and lower native species density and richness than rural forest. Both understorey vegetation and soil seed banks of urban sites >20 years old had lower exotic species richness than younger (10–20 years) sites, indicating a developmental threshold that provided some resistance to exotic species establishment. However, the prevalence of exotic species in urban seed rain will allow reinvasion through edge habitat and following disturbance to canopy vegetation. Persistent soil seed banks from both urban and rural sites were dominated by exotic herbaceous species and native fern species, while few other native forest species were found to persist for >1 year in the seed bank. Enrichment planting will be required for those native species with limited dispersal or short-lived seeds, thus improving native seed availability in urban forests as more planted species mature reproductively. Further research into species seed traits and seedling establishment is needed to refine effective management strategies for successful restoration of urban native forests.