Temporal dynamics of plant community regeneration sources during tallgrass prairie restoration
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Ecological restoration aims to augment and steer the composition and contribution of propagules for community regeneration in degraded environments. We quantified patterns in the abundance, richness, and diversity of seed and bud banks across an 11-year chronosequence of restored prairies and in prairie remnants to elucidate the degree to which the germinable seed bank, emerged seedlings, belowground buds, and emerged ramets were related to community regeneration. There were no directional patterns in the abundance, richness, or diversity of the germinable seed bank across the chronosequence. Emerged seedling abundance of sown species decreased during restoration. Richness and diversity of all emerged seedlings and non-sown emerged seedling species decreased across the chronosequence. Conversely, abundance and richness of belowground buds increased with restoration age and belowground bud diversity of sown species increased across the chronosequence. Numbers of emerged ramets also increased across the chronosequence and was driven primarily by the number of graminoid ramets. There were no temporal changes in abundance and richness of sown and non-sown emerged ramets, but diversity of sown emerged ramets increased across the chronosequence. This study demonstrates that after initial seeding, plant community structure in restored prairies increasingly reflects the composition of the bud bank.
KeywordsChronosequence Community assembly Diversity Propagules Species richness
We thank Bill Kleiman, Cody Considine, and all the Nachusa Grasslands stewards for access to the study sites and logistical support. Rachel K. Goad, Jake Jeffries, and Ben R. Wodika assisted in the field, lab, and greenhouse. John W. Miller provided valuable assistance in the greenhouse for the seed bank portion of this study. Funding was provided by National Science Foundation (DEB-0516429) with additional support from The A. W. Mellon Foundation.
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