Assessing Restoration Potential of Native Forbs from Cheatgrass-Dominated Habitats

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After large-scale disturbances such as fire, seeding can be necessary to reestablish a plant community and prevent soil erosion. While native plants are ideal for providing ecosystem services and supporting wildlife, currently seeded natives often fail to establish in disturbed landscapes. Further, reseeding with native plants is often hindered by Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass), a ubiquitous invader in the Colorado Plateau and throughout western North America. High seed viability and a high germination percentage early in the growing season are known to be key to the invasiveness of cheatgrass. Through life-history or local adaptation, native plants growing in cheatgrass-dominated habitats may share these characteristics of cheatgrass, and may tolerate or compete with the invader. A series of experiments was conducted to identify native forb species with viability and germination characteristics similar to those of cheatgrass and the ability to compete with cheatgrass, as these species would represent ideal candidates for use in reseeding projects. Ten native forb species growing in cheatgrass-invaded habitats in and around Zion National Park, UT and Montrose, CO were evaluated for germination response with and without pre-treatment (cold stratification and scarification), at four temperature regimes. Five species with high viability and germination rates were then included in two greenhouse competition experiments to determine their competitive effect on and response to cheatgrass neighbors. We identified seven species with viability that did not significantly differ from cheatgrass, and five species with germination percentages that did not significantly differ from cheatgrass under certain treatments. While all species were suppressed by cheatgrass competition, several species were identified that may represent improvements over those commonly seeded in the Colorado Plateau. These species represent promising candidates for use in restoration and should be considered in post-fire reseeding of sites where cheatgrass remains a concern.

Last modified
  • 02/04/2019
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