Fine and Coarse-Scale Patterns of Vegetation Diversity on Reclaimed Surface Mine-land Over a 40-Year Chronosequence
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- Bohrer, S.L., Limb, R.F., Daigh, A.L. et al. Environmental Management (2017) 59: 431. doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0795-y
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Rangelands are described as heterogeneous, due to patterning in species assemblages and productivity that arise from species dispersal and interactions with environmental gradients and disturbances across multiple scales. The objectives of rangeland reclamation are typically vegetation establishment, plant community productivity, and soil stability. However, while fine-scale diversity is often promoted through species-rich seed mixes, landscape heterogeneity and coarse-scale diversity are largely overlooked. Our objectives were to evaluate fine and coarse-scale vegetation patterns across a 40-year reclamation chronosequence on reclaimed surface coalmine lands. We hypothesized that both α-diversity and β-diversity would increase and community patch size and species dissimilarity to reference sites would decrease on independent sites over 40 years. Plant communities were surveyed on 19 post-coalmine reclaimed sites and four intact native reference sites in central North Dakota mixed-grass prairie. Our results showed no differences in α or β-diversity and plant community patch size over the 40-year chronosequence. However, both α-diversity and β-diversity on reclaimed sites was similar to reference sites. Native species establishment was limited due to the presence of non-native species such as Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) on both the reclaimed and reference sites. Species composition was different between reclaimed and reference sites and community dissimilarity increased on reclaimed sites over the 40-year chronosequence. Plant communities resulting from reclamation followed non-equilibrium succession, even with consistent seeds mixes established across all reclaimed years. This suggests post-reclamation management strategies influence species composition outcomes and land management strategies applied uniformly may not increase landscape-level diversity.