Ground cover recovery patterns and life-history traits: implications for restoration obstacles and opportunities in a species-rich savanna
Article first published online: 13 MAY 2004
Journal of Ecology
Volume 92, Issue 3, pages 409–421, June 2004
How to Cite
KIRKMAN, L. K., COFFEY, K. L., MITCHELL, R. J. and MOSER, E. B. (2004), Ground cover recovery patterns and life-history traits: implications for restoration obstacles and opportunities in a species-rich savanna. Journal of Ecology, 92: 409–421. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-0477.2004.00883.x
- Issue published online: 13 MAY 2004
- Article first published online: 13 MAY 2004
- Received 16 May 2003 revision accepted 7 January 2004 Handling Editor: Michael J. Hutchings
- dispersal limitation;
- indicator species;
- longleaf pine;
- reference sites;
- seed dispersal;
- species area;
- species richness
- 1We identified species with low re-colonization potential, which could be used as indicators of recovery of species-rich pine savannas, by comparing the ground-cover flora of a 64-year-old slash pine plantation (recovery site) with that of a nearby natural longleaf pine savanna (reference site). We also determined life-history traits that were useful predictors of recolonization potential.
- 2The high floristic overlap in species between reference and recovery sites and similar species richness at scales ≥ 10 m2 suggests that substantial vegetation recovery occurred over the 65-year period. However, for areas < 10 m2 the lower species packing in the recovery sites indicates that coexistence of a high number of species at small scales is dependent on local dispersal and establishment, and may take much longer to achieve.
- 3The absence, or near absence, of some species from the recovery site, even after 65 years, suggests that some species may be particularly vulnerable to disturbance and may re-establish infrequently, if ever. Several dispersal distance-restricted species were identified that require active reintroduction. While no particular guild of species was a strong indicator of recovery in this study, we identified a group of species that assess the absence of or the degree of recovery from, prior soil disturbance.
- 4Local dispersal appears to be an important factor structuring species richness patterns in pine savannas. Limitations of dispersal distance in some species, particularly those with gravity and ant-dispersal mechanisms, represent an obstacle to passive restoration that can only be overcome either by introduction of propagules in the restoration process or by allowing for longer periods of recruitment.
- 5This study demonstrates a method for identifying a suite of species that may be unsuccessful at recolonization. The method would be applicable to numerous degraded ecosystems, particularly similar species-rich savannas, grasslands and forests.