Category: Ecological Research
Title: Can pine forest restoration promote a diverse and abundant understory and simultaneously resist nonnative invasion?
Author: * McGlone, C.M. , * Springer, J.D., * Laughlin, D.C.
Subject: Mt. Trumbull, Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Understory, Ecological Restoration, Cheatgrass, Disturbance
Abstract: An important goal of forest restoration is to increase native plant diversity and abundance. Thinning and burning treatments are a common method of reducing fire risk while simultaneously promoting understory production in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests. In this study we examine the magnitude and direction of understory plant community recovery after thinning and burning restoration treatments in a ponderosa pine forest. Our objective was to determine if the post-treatment community was a diverse, abundant, and persistent assemblage of native species or if ecological restoration treatments resulted in nonnative species invasion. This project was initiated at the Grand Canyon- Parashant National Monument, Arizona, USA in 1997. We established four replicated blocks that spanned a gradient of soil types. Each block contained a control and a treated unit. Treated units were thinned to emulate pre-1870 forest stand conditions and prescribed-burned to reintroduce fire to a system that has not burned since 1870. We measured plant cover using the point-line intercept method and recorded species richness and composition on 0.05 ha belt transects. We examined the magnitude of treatment responses using Cohen’s d effect size analysis. Changes in community composition were analyzed using nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMS). Native plant species cover and richness increased in the thinned and burned areas compared to the controls. By the last year of the study, annual species comprised nearly 60% of the understory cover in the treatment units. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), a nonnative annual grass, spread into large areas of the treated units and became the dominant understory species on the study site. The ecological restoration treatments did promote a more diverse and abundant understory community in ponderosa pine forests. The disturbances generated by such treatments also promoted an invasion by an undesirable nonnative species. Our results demonstrate the need to minimize disturbances generated by restoration treatments and argue for the need to proactively facilitate the recovery of native species after treatment.
Source: Forest Ecology and Management
Publisher: Elsevier Science B.V., http://www.elsevier.com/