Special Issue "Grassland Restoration"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (21 March 2022) | Viewed by 8956

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Drew A. Scott
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Mandan, ND 58554, USA
Interests: ecosystem and community ecology; C and N dynamics during ecological restoration; controls on soil aggregation and C sequestration; plant community responses to heterogeneity; microbial community responses to plant effects; nitrous oxide emissions; biodiversity-ecosystem functioning; cover crop influence on soil biogeochemistry; crop rotation diversity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In many parts of the world, grasslands have been degraded through conversion to row crop agriculture, invasion by exotic species, mining, and urbanization. Grassland restoration seeks to reinstate biological structure and function. The importance of long-term monitoring following restoration has become clear, and observational studies have demonstrated patterns in biological diversity and biogeochemical cycling. However, experiments and modeling are necessary in order to test general ecological theory and make general predictions of restoration outcomes.

Many knowledge gaps remain in grassland restoration. For example, it is not well understood to what extent restoration outcome is dependent on stochastic events (e.g., drought and deluge events) compared with management practices (e.g., burning, mowing, and composition of seed mix). The extent to which plant–microbe interactions influence restoration outcomes is also unclear, requiring further study of plant mutualist, plant pathogens, pairwise plant–soil feedbacks, and the differences between rhizosphere and bulk soil microorganism communities. It is also unknown to what extent microbial inoculations alter restoration trajectory, with the need for justification of propagule selection. Experimentation in the framework of successional theory and species distribution modeling might improve likelihood of reaching desired plant communities. The propagule selection of plants may be improved by quantifying biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships. Understanding these relationships would ensure that appropriate species and functional groups are represented in restoration in order to achieve the desired functioning. The role that grassland restoration can play in mitigating climate change also remains ambiguous. While grassland restorations generally accrue organic carbon over time, the main drivers are not usually known. Furthermore, estimates of the greenhouse gas emissions during grassland restoration are poorly constrained because of their large variability in time and space. Grassland restoration studies have largely been focused on primary producers. The role that consumers play in shaping biological communities and ecosystem function requires further study.

In this Special Issue of Land, titled “Grassland Restoration”, we are calling for papers that advance ecological restoration theory by use of experimentation and modeling. Manuscripts on the manipulation of precipitation, burning, plant–microbe interactions, biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships, climate change mitigation, and food webs, or on other topics that advance knowledge of grassland restoration are welcome.

Dr. Drew A. Scott
Guest Editor

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Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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Article
Exploring Assembly Trajectories of Abandoned Grasslands in Response to 10 Years of Mowing in Sub-Mediterranean Context
Land 2021, 10(11), 1158; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10111158 - 29 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 751
Abstract
Abandoned semi-natural grasslands are characterized by lower plant diversity as a consequence of tall grasses spreading. Mowing is a widely used restoration practice, but its effects to maintain the restored diversity over time is poorly investigated in sub-Mediterranean grasslands. Since 2010 in the [...] Read more.
Abandoned semi-natural grasslands are characterized by lower plant diversity as a consequence of tall grasses spreading. Mowing is a widely used restoration practice, but its effects to maintain the restored diversity over time is poorly investigated in sub-Mediterranean grasslands. Since 2010 in the central Apennines, we fenced a grassland, invaded by Brachypodium rupestre, which was mowed twice a year. Before the experiment started, we recorded species cover in 30 random sampling units (0.5 m × 0.5 m). The sampling was repeated every two years for a total of ten years. We used linear mixed-effect models to investigate the trajectory of functional diversity and community weighted mean for traits related to space occupation, resource exploitation, temporal niche exploitation, and Grime’s CSR strategies. The reduction of the weaker competitor exclusion exerted by B. rupestre affected the functional plant community. In the short term (4–6 years), this fostered space occupation strategies, decreasing convergence of clonal strategies and horizontal space occupation types. In the longer term (8–10 years), mowing filtered ruderal strategies, i.e., species with faster resource acquisition (lower leaf dry matter content, LDMC). LDMC and CSR strategies, initially convergent due to the dominance of B. rupestre, lowered convergence over time due to higher differentiation of strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Restoration)
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Article
Diversity Is Not Everything
Land 2021, 10(10), 1091; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10101091 - 15 Oct 2021
Viewed by 766
Abstract
Since the passage of legislation in 1977, Appalachian mineland reclamation is typically completed using non-native C3 grasses and forbs. Alternatively, reclamation with native prairie (C4) grasses and forbs offers a more ecologically friendly alternative that can contribute to native plant [...] Read more.
Since the passage of legislation in 1977, Appalachian mineland reclamation is typically completed using non-native C3 grasses and forbs. Alternatively, reclamation with native prairie (C4) grasses and forbs offers a more ecologically friendly alternative that can contribute to native plant conservation and potentially improve soil properties more quickly than shallower rooted C3 cool-season grasses. We assessed the establishment of native prairie after reclamation, evaluating three treatments for six years after planting—traditional cool season planting, native prairie planted at light density, and native prairie planted at heavy density. All treatments reached the objectives of reclamation—percentage of ground covered by vegetation—within 2 years after planting. All treatments at all sites, except for one site by treatment combination near a forest, showed an increase in plant species richness and Shannon–Wiener diversity in the first four years of reclamation, a peak around 5 years, and subsequent decrease. Little difference in plant richness and Shannon–Wiener diversity among treatments was observed. However, the two native seed mixes quickly diverged from the traditional mix in terms of community structure and diverged further over time, with both native treatments heading towards a more desirable native prairie grassland state, while the traditional mix remained dominated by non-native cool season grasses. The native treatments also exhibited greater increase in microbial biomass and fungi:bacteria ratio over time compared to the traditional mix. Soil organic carbon increased over time regardless of seed mix treatment. Exchangeable base cations and phosphorus generally decreased over time, as expected, regardless of seed mix treatment, likely due to uptake from established plants. Native grassland species were able to establish despite inclusion of some traditional species in the native mix. Native plant establishment likely resulted in benefits including pollinator resources, bird and wildlife habitat, and increased soil health, and we recommend that native prairie mixes be used directly in reclamation moving forward, as they are able to meet reclamation goals while establishing a successful native prairie plant community. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Restoration)
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Article
Phenological Variation in Bluebunch Wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata): Implications for Seed Sourcing, Harvest, and Restoration
Land 2021, 10(10), 1064; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10101064 - 09 Oct 2021
Viewed by 932
Abstract
To reduce maladaptation in cultivated seed lots, seed transfer zones (STZs) have been developed for grasslands and other habitats using morphological traits and phenological measurements that only capture the first day of events such as flowering and seed ripening. Phenology is closely linked [...] Read more.
To reduce maladaptation in cultivated seed lots, seed transfer zones (STZs) have been developed for grasslands and other habitats using morphological traits and phenological measurements that only capture the first day of events such as flowering and seed ripening. Phenology is closely linked to plant fitness and may affect genetic loss during harvests of seed raised for ecological restoration. Here, we measured the detailed phenologies of 27 populations from six STZs of bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) (Pursh) Á. Löve (Poaceae) raised in a common garden to test whether existing STZs created using a combination of plant morphology and “first-day” phenological measurements adequately capture population-level variation in season-long, detailed phenologies. We also used detailed phenologies to test whether genetic losses may occur during single-pass harvests of commercial seed. Mixed and random effect models revealed differences in detailed reproductive phenology among populations within two of six STZs. The number of individual plants within an STZ not producing harvestable seed during peak harvest levels indicated that 10–27% of individuals from a seed lot could be excluded from a single-pass harvest. Although our findings generally support current STZ delineations for P. spicata, they point to the possible precautionary importance of sourcing from multiple populations and harvesting with multiple passes when resources permit. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Restoration)
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Article
Does Pastoral Land-Use Legacy Influence Topsoil Carbon and Nitrogen Accrual Rates in Tallgrass Prairie Restorations?
Land 2021, 10(7), 735; https://doi.org/10.3390/land10070735 - 13 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1191
Abstract
Restoration can recover degraded ecosystems and ecosystem services. However, effects of restoration on soil nutrient accrual are difficult to predict, partly because prior land use affects rates of soil nutrient recovery. In tallgrass prairie restorations, land-use legacy effects have not yet been quantified. [...] Read more.
Restoration can recover degraded ecosystems and ecosystem services. However, effects of restoration on soil nutrient accrual are difficult to predict, partly because prior land use affects rates of soil nutrient recovery. In tallgrass prairie restorations, land-use legacy effects have not yet been quantified. We investigated topsoil carbon and nitrogen accrual within seven land-use histories: (1) row crop agriculture, (2) pasture, (3) pasture converted from row crops, (4) prairie restored from row crop, (5) prairie restored from old pasture, (6) bison prairie restored from pasture and row crops, and (7) remnant prairie. Soil samples were collected in 2008 and again in 2018 at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County, IL. Soil samples were analyzed for bulk density, root chemistry, macro- and micronutrients, and carbon. Restored prairies contained similar soil bulk densities and rates of topsoil carbon accrual compared to each other in 2018. However, restorations from row cropping accrued nitrogen more slowly than restorations from pastures. Additionally, pastures converted from crop fields exhibited fewer legacy effects than restorations converted from crop fields. This research illustrates land-use legacy effects on soil and nutrients during grassland restorations, with implications for potential restoration trajectories and their role in carbon sequestration and ecosystem functioning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Restoration)
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Article
Impact of Water Level on Species Quantity and Composition Grown from the Soil Seed Bank of the Inland Salt Marsh: An Ex-Situ Experiment
Land 2020, 9(12), 533; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9120533 - 20 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1422
Abstract
The near elimination of inland salt marshes in Central Europe occurred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and the currently remaining marshes exist in a degraded condition. This work examines the impact of groundwater level on the growth of plants from a seed [...] Read more.
The near elimination of inland salt marshes in Central Europe occurred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and the currently remaining marshes exist in a degraded condition. This work examines the impact of groundwater level on the growth of plants from a seed bank obtained from a degraded salt marsh in proximity to still existing one through an ex-situ experiment. An experimental tank was set up with the sample seed bank experiencing differing levels of water level. There were 1233 specimens of 44 taxa grown from the seed bank, of which 5 species were abundant, and 10 species are considered as halophytes. Only Lotus tenuis from halophytes was more abundant, and only five species of halophytes were represented by more than three individuals. The water level has a significant impact on the number of species (based on linear regression analysis) as well as species distribution among different water level treatments (a non-metric multidimensional analysis (nMDS) followed by linear regression). The results show a strong negative relationship between the average water level and the number of species. The water level did not affect the species composition of halophytes, but differences in individual species abundances were found among the halophytes. The species Bupleurum tenuissimum, Crypsis schoenoides, Melilotus dentatus, and Plantago maritima grew on the drier and non-inundated soils. Tripolium pannonicum, Spergularia maritima, and Lotus tenuis grew on both wet and dry soils. Trifolium fragiferum and Bolboschoenus maritimus were found in places with water stagnant at the soil level. Pulicaria dysenterica grew in inundated soil. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Restoration)
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Article
From the Ground Up: Prairies on Reclaimed Mine Land—Impacts on Soil and Vegetation
Land 2020, 9(11), 455; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9110455 - 17 Nov 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1518
Abstract
After strip mining, soils typically suffer from compaction, low nutrient availability, loss of soil organic carbon, and a compromised soil microbial community. Prairie restorations can improve ecosystem services on former agricultural lands, but prairie restorations on mine lands are relatively under-studied. This study [...] Read more.
After strip mining, soils typically suffer from compaction, low nutrient availability, loss of soil organic carbon, and a compromised soil microbial community. Prairie restorations can improve ecosystem services on former agricultural lands, but prairie restorations on mine lands are relatively under-studied. This study investigated the impact of prairie restoration on mine lands, focusing on the plant community and soil properties. In southeast Ohio, 305 ha within a ~2000 ha area of former mine land was converted to native prairie through herbicide and planting between 1999–2016. Soil and vegetation sampling occurred from 2016–2018. Plant community composition shifted with prairie age, with highest native cover in the oldest prairie areas. Prairie plants were more abundant in older prairies. The oldest prairies had significantly more soil fungal biomass and higher soil microbial biomass. However, many soil properties (e.g., soil nutrients, β-glucosoidase activity, and soil organic carbon), as well as plant species diversity and richness trended higher in prairies, but were not significantly different from baseline cool-season grasslands. Overall, restoration with prairie plant communities slowly shifted soil properties, but mining disturbance was still the most significant driver in controlling soil properties. Prairie restoration on reclaimed mine land was effective in establishing a native plant community, with the associated ecosystem benefits. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Restoration)
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Review

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Review
Ecological Grassland Restoration—A South African Perspective
Land 2022, 11(4), 575; https://doi.org/10.3390/land11040575 - 14 Apr 2022
Viewed by 1341
Abstract
The principal drivers of Grassland Biome conversion and degradation in South Africa include agricultural intensification, plantation forestry, urban expansion and mining, together with invasive non-native plants and insidious rural sprawl. This biome is poorly conserved and in dire need of restoration, an ecologically [...] Read more.
The principal drivers of Grassland Biome conversion and degradation in South Africa include agricultural intensification, plantation forestry, urban expansion and mining, together with invasive non-native plants and insidious rural sprawl. This biome is poorly conserved and in dire need of restoration, an ecologically centred practice gaining increasing traction given its wide application to people and biodiversity in this emerging culture of renewal. The pioneering proponent of restoration in South Africa is the mining industry, primarily to restore surface stability using vegetation cover. We noticed a historical progression from production-focussed non-native pastures to more diverse suites of native species and habitats in the restoration landscape. This paradigm shift towards the proactive “biodiversity approach” necessitates assisted natural regeneration, mainly through revegetation with grasses, using plugs, sods and/or seeds, together with long-lived perennial forbs. We discuss key management interventions such as ongoing control of invasive non-native plants, the merits of fire and grazing, and the deleterious impacts of fertilisers. We also highlight areas of research requiring further investigation. The “biodiversity approach” has limitations and is best suited to restoring ecological processes rather than attempting to match the original pristine state. We advocate conserving intact grassland ecosystems as the key strategy for protecting grassland biodiversity, including small patches with disproportionately high biodiversity conservation value. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland Restoration)
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