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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Role of Seed Bank and Germination Dynamics in the Restoration of a Tidal Freshwater Marsh in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta


Liberty Island, California, is a historical freshwater tidal wetland that was converted to agricultural fields in the early 1900s. Liberty Island functioned as farmland until an accidental levee break flooded the area in 1997, inadvertently restoring tidal marsh hydrology. Since then, wetland vegetation has naturally recolonized part of the site. We conducted a seed bank assay at the site and found that despite a lack of germination or seedling recruitment at the site, the seed bank contained a diverse plant community, indicating that the site’s continuous flooding was likely suppressing germination. Additionally, the frequency of germinating seeds in the seed bank did not represent the dominant adult plant community. We conducted a cold stratification study to determine if this observed disparity could be explained by seed germination dynamics, and whether germination could be enhanced using a pre-germination cold exposure, particularly for species of concern for wetland restoration. The cold stratification study showed that longer durations of pre-germination cold enhanced germination in Schoenoplectus acutus, but reduced germination in Schoenoplectus californicus, and had no effect on Typha latifolia. Overall, germination of S. californicus and S. acutus was much lower than T. latifolia. Our findings suggest that seeding may not be an effective restoration technique for Schoenoplectus spp., and, to improve restoration techniques, further study is needed to more comprehensively understand the reproduction ecology of important marsh species.

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