Restoration of Prairie Community Structure and Ecosystem Function in an Abandoned Hayfield: A Sowing Experiment

Authors


Address correspondence to B. L. Foster, email bfoster@ku.edu

Abstract

Using a multispecies seed sowing experiment, we investigated the roles of seed and microsite limitation in constraining the restoration of native prairie diversity and ecosystem function in an abandoned upland hayfield in northeastern Kansas. Seeds of 32 native and naturalized plant species from the regional pool were sown into undisturbed and experimentally disturbed field plots. After six growing seasons, experimental sowing led to major shifts in species and functional group composition, increases in native species abundance and floristic quality, declines in abundance of non-native species, and increases in plant diversity. These changes in community structure led to significant changes at the ecosystem level including increases in light capture, peak biomass, primary production, litter biomass, root biomass, and C storage in roots. Our findings reveal the importance of seed limitations in constraining the natural recovery of prairie vegetation, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning in this grassland and confirm broadcast sowing as a useful tool for the restoration of upland hayfield sites.

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