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Keywords:

  • dispersion;
  • environmental limitations;
  • floristic composition;
  • neighboring vegetation;
  • randomization test;
  • restoration;
  • soil erosion

Abstract

The importance of neighboring vegetation as a seed reservoir for spontaneous colonization of adjacent road slopes was analyzed in a semiarid region of east Spain. Two independent methodological approaches were used to examine the relative contribution of seed from neighboring vegetation and the efficiency of different seed dispersal strategies in plant colonization. We first used a randomization test to compare floristic similarity between road slopes, neighboring flora, and local flora (the regional species pool found in the same climate and soil conditions as the road slopes). Second, we compared seed dispersal mechanisms of road slope vegetation with those of the surrounding area using frequency analysis. Species composition of road slopes was more similar to that of the flora of adjacent surrounding areas than expected by chance. Anemochorous (wind-dispersed) plants were over-represented in road slopes 8 years after road slopes were built. We concluded that seed dispersal from neighboring vegetation is an important factor in the vegetative colonization of road slopes. However, this initial species pool was also strongly shaped by the harsh environmental conditions of roadcuts and southern aspect. These results have important implications in road slope restoration because they suggest that naturally vegetated areas should be maintained adjacent to road slopes to enhance seed immigration from species adapted to local site conditions, which will accelerate the successional process. The application of this single reclamation strategy and mixed strategies that combine the use of natural colonization and soil amendment for road slope restoration in Mediterranean environmental conditions is discussed.