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Keywords:

  • Artemisia tridentata;
  • oil shale reclamation;
  • shrubland;
  • soil amendment

Abstract

A study was conducted to evaluate the long-term effects of biosolids amendment on restoration of disturbed sagebrush steppe habitat in northwestern Colorado. Twenty-four years after biosolids amendment, soil fertility and plant community development were studied in replicated plots receiving various biosolids amendments on two different substrates. The two substrates used were a subsoil, determined to have low initial fertility, and a topsoil over retorted shale substrate, determined to have relatively high initial fertility. Results suggest that biosolids amendments have long-lasting effects on soil fertility and plant community composition, but these effects vary between the two substrates that were utilized. Within the plots established on subsoil, the long-term effect of biosolids was a reduction in plant species diversity and dominance by perennial grasses. On the topsoil substrate, there was a decrease in perennial grasses and an increase in shrub dominance with increasing biosolids. Results demonstrate the importance of considering initial soil conditions, seed mixture, and biosolids application rate when using biosolids for restoration of disturbed sagebrush steppe habitat. The long-term effects of the biosolids treatments at this site demonstrate the need to consider restoration treatment effects over longer and more ecologically meaningful time frames.