Seed bank and big sagebrush plant community composition in a range margin for big sagebrush

Publication Type:

Journal Article


ECOSPHERE, WILEY, Volume 7, Number 10, 111 RIVER ST, HOBOKEN 07030-5774, NJ USA, p.e01453 (2016)


Artemisia tridentata, climate change, migration, range expansion, range margin plant communities


The potential influence of seed bank composition on range shifts of species due to climate change is unclear. Seed banks can provide a means of both species persistence in an area and local range expansion in the case of increasing habitat suitability, as may occur under future climate change. However, a mismatch between the seed bank and the established plant community may represent an obstacle to persistence and expansion. In big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) plant communities in Montana, USA, we compared the seed bank to the established plant community. There was less than a 20% similarity in the relative abundance of species between the established plant community and the seed bank. This difference was primarily driven by an overrepresentation of native annual forbs and an underrepresentation of big sagebrush in the seed bank compared to the established plant community. Even though we expect an increase in habitat suitability for big sagebrush under future climate conditions at our sites, the current mismatch between the plant community and the seed bank could impede big sagebrush range expansion into increasingly suitable habitat in the future.