Soil Organism and Plant Introductions in Restoration of Species-Rich Grassland Communities

Authors

  • Paul Kardol,

    Corresponding author
    1. Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Terrestrial Ecology, PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands
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  • T. Martijn Bezemer,

    1. Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Terrestrial Ecology, PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands
    2. Laboratory of Nematology, Wageningen University and Research Centre, PO Box 8123, 6700 ES Wageningen, The Netherlands
    3. Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University and Research Centre, PO Box 8031, 6700 EH Wageningen, The Netherlands
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  • Wim H. Van Der Putten

    1. Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Terrestrial Ecology, PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands
    2. Laboratory of Nematology, Wageningen University and Research Centre, PO Box 8123, 6700 ES Wageningen, The Netherlands
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Address correspondence to P. Kardol, email pkardol@utk.edu

Abstract

Soil organisms can strongly affect competitive interactions and successional replacements of grassland plant species. However, introduction of whole soil communities as management strategy in grassland restoration has received little experimental testing. In a 5-year field experiment at a topsoil-removed ex-arable site (receptor site), we tested effects of (1) spreading hay and soil, independently or combined, and (2) transplanting intact turfs on plant and soil nematode community development. Material for the treatments was obtained from later successional, species-rich grassland (donor site). Spreading hay affected plant community composition, whereas spreading soil did not have additional effects. Plant species composition of transplanted turfs became less similar to that in the donor site. Moreover, most plants did not expand into the receiving plots. Soil spreading and turf transplantation did not affect soil nematode community composition. Unfavorable soil conditions (e.g., low organic matter content and seasonal fluctuations in water level) at the receptor site may have limited plant and nematode survival in the turfs and may have precluded successful establishment outside the turfs. We conclude that introduction of later successional soil organisms into a topsoil-removed soil did not facilitate the establishment of later successional plants, probably because of the “mismatch” in abiotic soil conditions between the donor and the receptor site. Further research should focus on the required conditions for establishment of soil organisms at restoration sites in order to make use of their contribution to grassland restoration. We propose that introduction of organisms from “intermediate” stages will be more effective as management strategy than introduction of organisms from “target” stages.

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