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Chico, CA, United States

Poulos J.M.,Utah State University | Rayburn A.P.,River Partners | Schupp E.W.,Utah State University
Plant Ecology | Year: 2014

There is increasing recognition that both competition and facilitation are important drivers of plant community dynamics in arid and semi-arid environments. Decades of research have provided a litany of examples of the potential for shrubs as nurse plants for establishment of desirable species, especially in water-limited environments. However, interactions with the existing understory community may alter the outcome of interactions between shrubs and understory plants. A manipulative experiment was conducted to disentangle interactions between a native forb species (Penstemon palmeri A. Gray), a native shrub (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.), and a diverse understory of exotic and native forbs and grasses in a semi-arid shrubland of Northern Utah, USA. Seedlings of P. palmeri were transplanted in a factorial design: (1) beneath shrub canopies or into their interspaces and (2) with understory interactions retained or removed. Transplant survival was tracked for roughly 1 year. Shrubs appeared to facilitate P. palmeri survival while interactions with the existing understory community were equivalently negative, leading to overall neutral interactions. Further, positive shrub interactions and negative understory interactions appeared to operate independently and simultaneously. While the debate over the importance of facilitation and competition in driving plant community dynamics continues, our observations strongly suggest that both have considerable effects on plant establishment in A. tridentata communities. Furthermore, our results inform the conservation and restoration of P. palmeri populations, and suggest the utility of nurse shrubs and/or understory thinning as strategies for increasing the diversity of desirable species in the arid and semi-arid western United States shrublands. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Source

Golet G.H.,The Nature Conservancy | Brown D.L.,California State University, Chico | Carlson M.,California State University, Chico | Gardali T.,PRBO Conservation Science | And 17 more authors.
San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science | Year: 2013

Large-scale ecosystem restoration projects seldom undergo comprehensive evaluation to determine project effectiveness. Consequently, there are missed opportunities for learning and strategy refinement. Before our study, monitoring information from California's middle Sacramento River had not been synthesized, despite restoration having been ongoing since 1989. Our assessment was based on the development and application of 36 quantitative ecological indicators. These indicators were used to characterize the status of terrestrial and floodplain resources (e.g., flora and fauna), channel dynamics (e.g., planform, geomorphology), and the flow regime. Indicators were also associated with specific goal statements of the CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program. A collective weight of evidence approach was used to assess restoration success. Our synthesis demonstrates good progress in the restoration of riparian habitats, birds and other wildlife, but not in restoration of streamflows and geomorphic processes. For example, from 1999 to 2007, there was a > 600% increase in forest patch core size, and a 43% increase in the area of the river bordered by natural habitat > 500 m wide. Species richness of landbirds and beetles increased at restoration sites, as did detections of bats. However, degraded post-Shasta Dam streamflow conditions continued. Relative to pre-dam conditions, the average number of years that pass between flows that are sufficient to mobilize the bed, and those that are of sufficient magnitude to inundate the floodplain, increased by over 100%. Trends in geomorphic processes were strongly negative, with increases in the amount of bank hardened with riprap, and decreases in the area of floodplain reworked. Overall the channel simplified, becoming less sinuous with reduced overall channel length. Our progress assessment presents a compelling case for what needs to be done to further advance the ecological restoration of the river. The most important actions to be taken relate to promoting river meander and floodplain connectivity, and restoring components of the natural flow regime. © 2013 by the article author(s). Source

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