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Keywords:

  • Cottonwood seedling;
  • Middle Rio Grande Valley;
  • Populus deltoides;
  • riparian restoration;
  • soil moisture;
  • soil texture

Abstract

Most major rivers in the southwestern United States have been hydrologically altered to meet human needs. Altered hydrological regimes have been associated with declines in native riparian forests. Today, many riparian areas have little or no regeneration of native riparian species and are now dominated by exotic Saltcedar (Tamarix chinensis Lour.). Success of riparian restoration efforts at least partially depends on the number of seedlings surviving the first growing season. Seedling survival is influenced by many abiotic and biotic factors including competition from other plants and available soil moisture, which is partially dependent on soil texture. In this study, we evaluated the relative importance of four soil categories (sandy loam, loam, silt, and clay), rate of soil moisture decline, salinity, beginning- and end-season Saltcedar density, initial Cottonwood (Populus deltoides Marshall subsp. wislizenii (Wats.) Eckenw.) seedling density, percent vegetation cover by potential dominant competitors Pigweed (Amaranthus L.) and Barnyard grass (Echinochloa crusgalli L., Beauv.), and average total vegetation height to Cottonwood seedling survival. Factors influencing seedling survival differed among the four soil types. Rate of moisture decline was important in sandy soils, whereas vegetation height influenced seedling survival in loamy soils. Overall, models of seedling survival in all the four soil types indicated rate of moisture decline as the single most important variable influencing Cottonwood survival. High initial densities of Saltcedar were correlated to higher survival in Cottonwood seedlings. Therefore, it is important to identify soil texture and understand soil moisture decline rates when proposing riparian Cottonwood restoration.