Fertilization and plant diversity accelerate primary succession and restoration of dune communities
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Plant species richness can increase primary production because plants occupy different niches or facilitate each other (“complementarity effects”) or because diverse mixtures have a greater chance of having more productive species (“selection effects”). To determine how complementarity and selection influence dune restoration, we established four types of plant communities [monocultures of sea oats (Uniola paniculata), bitter panicgrass (Panicum amarum) and saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) and the three-species mixture] under different soil treatments typical of dune restorations (addition of soil organic material, nutrients, both, or neither). This fully factorial design allowed us to determine if plant identity, diversity and soil treatments influenced the yield of both the planted species and species that recruited naturally (volunteers). Planted species responses in monocultures and mixtures varied among soil treatments. The composition of the plantings and soils also influenced the abundance of volunteers. The mixture of the three species had the lowest cover of volunteers. We also found that the effect of diversity on production increased with fertilizer. We partitioned the biodiversity effect into complementarity and selection effects and found that the increase in the diversity effect occurred because increased nutrients decreased dominance by the largest species and increased complementarity among species. Our findings suggest that different planting schemes can be used to meet specific goals of restoration (e.g., accelerate plant recovery while suppressing colonization of non-planted species).