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Revegetation Methods for High-Elevation Roadsides at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

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Abstract

Establishment of native plant populations on disturbed roadsides was investigated at Bryce Canyon National Park (BCNP) in relation to several revegetation and seedbed preparation techniques. In 1994, the BCNP Rim Road (2,683–2,770 m elevation) was reconstructed resulting in a 23.8-ha roadside disturbance. Revegetation comparisons included the influence of fertilizer on plant establishment and development, the success of indigenous versus commercial seed, seedling response to microsites, methods of erosion control, and shrub transplant growth and survival. Plant density, cover, and biomass were measured 1, 2, and 4 years after revegetation implementation (1995–1998). Seeded native grass cover and density were the highest on plots fertilized with nitrogen and phosphorus, but by the fourth growing season, differences between fertilized and unfertilized plots were minimal. Fertilizers may facilitate more rapid establishment of seeded grasses following disturbance, increasing soil cover and soil stability on steep and unstable slopes. However the benefit of increased soil nutrients favored few of the desired species resulting in lower species richness over time compared to unfertilized sites. Elymus trachycaulus (slender wheatgrass) plants raised from indigenous seed had higher density and cover than those from a commercial seed source 2 and 4 years after sowing. Indigenous materials may exhibit slow establishment immediately following seeding, but they will likely persist during extreme climatic conditions such as cold temperatures and relatively short growing seasons. Seeded grasses established better near stones and logs than on adjacent open microsites, suggesting that a roughened seedbed created before seeding can significantly enhance plant establishment. After two growing seasons, total grass cover between various erosion-control treatments was similar indicating that a variety of erosion reduction techniques can be utilized to reduce erosion. Finally shrub transplants showed minimal differential response to fertilizers, water-absorbing gels, and soil type. Simply planting and watering transplants was sufficient for the greatest plant survival and growth.

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