Wheeler M.M.,The Ecosystems Center |
Neill C.,The Ecosystems Center |
Loucks E.,Marthas Vineyard |
Weiler A.,University of Central Florida |
And 3 more authors.
Restoration Ecology | Year: 2015
Creating native-species-rich grasslands to replace agricultural grasslands can be an important strategy for supplementing the area of grasslands, which are in decline in many regions. In the northeastern United States, sandplain grasslands support a diverse plant community and rare plant and animal species that are declining because of reductions in historical disturbances such as fire and grazing. We designed an experiment on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, to test methods of establishing native-species-rich coastal sandplain grassland on former agricultural land. We tested the efficacy of: (1) tilling, herbicide, hot foam, and plastic cover in removing initial nonnative vegetation, and (2) combinations of tilling and seeding for establishing native species. We measured native and nonnative species richness and percent cover before and for 5 years after treatment. Herbicide, plastic cover, and spring, summer, and fall tilling were about equally effective in reducing nonnative species cover and promoting native species cover. Tilling and seeding each increased native species richness and percent cover, and seeding and tilling together increased native species richness and cover more than either treatment alone. Combined seeding and disturbance also reduced the cover of nonnative species, but nonnative species cover remained higher than in adjacent reference sandplain grassland. Results indicated that native species establishment was enhanced by the availability of seeds and by reduction of initial nonnative plant cover. The most efficient method of converting coastal agricultural grasslands to sandplain grassland with a higher number and proportion of native species is a single season of plant removal and seeding. © 2015 Society for Ecological Restoration.