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Keywords:

  • arid ecosystems;
  • invasion ecology;
  • revegetation;
  • riparian restoration;
  • regression tree analysis;
  • Tamarix

Abstract

Invasion by the non-native tree Tamarix has led to implementation of restoration projects aimed at maintaining the ecological integrity of many riparian communities in the southwestern United States. These restoration efforts may include Tamarix removal, manipulation of hydrologic regimes, and active revegetation of native species. The goal of this study was to determine which site characteristics are correlated with restoration success, defined in terms of reductions of undesirable species such as Tamarix and establishment of desirable, native species. To accomplish this, vegetative and environmental data were collected at 28 sites in the southwestern United States where active revegetation was completed after Tamarix removal. These data were incorporated into regression tree models with predictor variables that included number of years since removal (1–18 years) and multiple management, climate, soils, and hydrological variables to determine success of Tamarix control, revegetation success, and general plant community responses. Our results suggest that there are easily measurable site characteristics that are associated with greater native cover and richness, planting success, and Tamarix control. Close proximity to perennial water, sufficient precipitation, recent flooding, and good drainage as well as coarser soil texture, and lower soil pH all favored native species. Overall, those site characteristics associated with native species success were the same as those related to lower Tamarix cover. These quantitative models are intended to assist researchers and land managers to design more effective riparian restoration efforts in this critical arid lands ecosystem.