Bulletin de la Société Royale de Botanique de Belgique vol:134 issue:1 pages:29-40
In Belgium as in the rest of north-western Europe, the restoration of heathlands has become a major nature conservation priority. The target species for this restoration process may be present in the relict seed bank, which can be used to restore the ecological diversity of heathlands successfully. This study focuses on the consequences of a highly dynamic and complex historical land use pattern on the composition and heathland restoration potential of the soil seed bank of a sand stone hill in central Belgium. The presence of typical heathland species was negatively correlated with historical orchard land use. Former land use as orchard imposed both biotic (low seed densities of target species) and abiotic (high soil phosphate level) constraints in the restoration of heathland. Time since abandonment of the heathland and conifer land use negatively affected the presence of heathland species due to seed senescence in the heathland species seed bank. Especially more than 50 years after the reference land use, the number of heathland species has become very small acid restoration is hardly possible. On parcels that had no historical orchard land use and having a current land use as oak-birch forest, the chance of successful restoration of heathland is greatest. Densities of heathland species in the seed bank of these parcels are relatively high and the densities of non-target, potentially competing, species are relatively low.