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Keywords:

  • Bluebunch wheatgrass;
  • bunchgrass mortality;
  • conifer ingrowth;
  • grassland restoration;
  • Pinegrass;
  • planting season;
  • Spreading needlegrass;
  • tillers

Abstract

Constraints to grassland and open forest restoration (e.g., poor seed sources, yearly variation in establishment, and the persistence of weeds) necessitate the development of innovative methods to restore bunchgrass communities. We assessed the use of two native bunchgrass transplants, Bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata) and Spreading needlegrass (Achnatherum richardsonii), for restoration within thinned montane forest communities of southeastern British Columbia, Canada. Fall and spring plantings were examined, either with or without glyphosate treatments to Pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens) neighbors. Calamagrostis rubescens is abundant in grassland affected by tree encroachment and may limit transplant establishment. Bunchgrass survival was positively associated (p < 0.05) with transplant size. Although P. spicata survival was greater (p < 0.01) with fall (81%) than with spring (44%) planting, survival of A. richardsonii was greater (p < 0.01) when planted in the spring (68 vs. 23%). Reduction of C. rubescens led to a relatively small but significant increase (p < 0.05) in bunchgrass survival by 7%. The summer after planting, changes in transplant tiller number varied by bunchgrass species, planting season, and treatment of neighboring C. rubescens. Removal of neighboring C. rubescens generally increased the number of tillers (or reduced tiller loss) but only within fall-planted A. richardsonii and spring-planted P. spicata. Both A. richardsonii and P. spicata transplants have potential for understory restoration within thinned montane forests, particularly using larger individuals, although to maximize survival, these species should be planted in the spring and fall, respectively. Reduction of C. rubescens may also enhance transplant survival and in some cases growth.