An assessment of grassland restoration success using species diversity components


Present address and correspondence: Leanne M. Martin, Department of Biology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE 68182, USA (fax 402 554 3532; e-mail


  • 1We do not know which aspects of community structure and ecosystem processes are restorable for most ecosystems, yet this information is crucial for achieving successful restoration.
  • 2We quantified three success criteria for 8–10-year-old grassland plantings in large-scale tallgrass prairie restoration (reconstruction) sites relative to three nearby prairie remnant sites. The restoration sites included management of native ungulates and fire, important regulators of diversity and patchiness in intact grasslands. These have not been incorporated simultaneously into previous studies of restoration success.
  • 3We used the additive partitioning model of diversity, where α is neighbourhood (quadrat) scale diversity, β is accumulation of species diversity across neighbourhoods, and γ is total diversity. We decomposed α into richness and evenness to determine if both were equally restored.
  • 4The proportion of exotic biomass was similar between the restoration and remnant sites, but the proportion of exotic species and above-ground net primary productivity remained between two and four times higher in the restoration sites.
  • 5Alpha diversity (Simpson's 1/D) and richness (S) values were exceptionally high in remnant sites, and approximately twice those of the restoration sites. Alpha evenness was similar between the restoration and remnant sites.
  • 6Distance per se between quadrats was not related to diversity after accumulated quadrat area was taken into account. Therefore, we may be able to use the additive partitioning model of diversity in areas that differ in size, at least at the scale of this study.
  • 7Contrary to our original predictions, the proportion of β diversity (1 − D) was approximately twice as high in the restoration sites than in remnant sites, possibly because patches of individual species were larger in the restoration.
  • 8Synthesis and applications. We have shown that current restoration methods are unable to restore plant diversity in tallgrass prairie. Grassland restoration will be improved if the number of species that co-exist can be increased. New, local-scale restoration techniques are needed to replicate the high levels of diversity observed in tallgrass prairie remnant sites.