Native shrub reestablishment in exotic annual grasslands: Do ecosystem processes recover?

Yelenik S.G, J.M. Levine. Ecological Applications. 20(3) 2010. 716-727.

Although the results of the study were somewhat intuitive from a general standpoint (i.e. it makes sense that different shrub species will have a different amounts and quality of litterfall, nutrient requirements, and thus exert different effects on their surroundings and that a virtual monoculture of exotic wild oats will create a less diverse soil environment than a landscape of several types of shrubs and herbs), it is nonetheless very exciting to quantify specific effects that important and widely distributed native species have on their surroundings. This feedback loop or "feedback to recovery", as plants alter their surroundings, often to the detriment of competitors, seems like a difficult process to quantify and understand, yet essential to understand in order to have some idea of how a restoration site might change through time.

The main problem here, which is acknowledged by the authors, is that it remains to be seen how this type of species specific knowledge might be applied to landscapes which are being proactively restored rather than naturally recolonized by native vegetation following the elimination of grazing activities (as was the case in this study). Additionally, it may be problematic to attempt to apply these results to other landscapes with different soil types and structures even though these soil types may be a part of the species' range. Nonetheless, this type of study would seem to be an invaluable tool for any carefully considered program of restoration.

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