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Understanding neighborhood effects to increase restoration success of woody plant communities

AuthorsIbáñez, Inés; Rodríguez, Alejandro
Issue Date2020
CitationEcological Applications 30(5):e02098 (2020)
AbstractRevegetation is the most common procedure in the restoration of disturbed areas; this practice usually aims at reconstructing plant communities that can last without further management. A low-cost strategy to assist these efforts is the application of ecological knowledge in the design of the restoration. Promoting ecological processes that enhance the functioning of the restored community could result in higher restoration success. Among these processes, plant–plant interactions, e.g., facilitation and competition, can play an important role, both facilitating and impeding the development of a self-sustaining plant community. Although these processes have been well-studied in nature, we rarely have sufficient knowledge about the whole plant community. To develop that knowledge, we leverage on a restoration experiment that took place after a mine toxic spill, where ~15,000 woody plants from 13 species were planted and geolocated. Species were planted in three mixtures mimicking natural communities found along soil moisture gradients (xerophyte, intermediate, and hydrophyte). Plantings also varied in density. Approximately 2,600 plants were monitored for damage status, survival, and growth, for 4 yr. We analyzed growth performance of six targeted species as a function of their damage status, planted mixture, and density. Growth was also assessed on the basis of neighboring plants, accounting for the species identity and distance to the focal plant. Results show that survival among planted species was relatively high and was mostly unaffected by mixture or density of the plantings. Only very damaged plants in one species experienced a decrease in survival with increasing density. Neighborhood effects on growth show positive, neutral, and negative interactions among the tested species; these also varied depending on the type of growth performance considered (height, crown area, diameter). The species-specific results ranged from positive to negative, varying between pair of species and growth performance metric. Results gathered from our neighborhood analyses on plant growth provide valuable information for the design of planting schemes that could enhance the performance of the target species. The methods developed can be applied to other systems and species. Given the potential impacts that facilitation and competition may have during revegetation, these interactions could be considered in restoration operations.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eap.2098
Identifiersdoi: 10.1002/eap.2098
issn: 1939-5582
Appears in Collections:(EBD) Artículos
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