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Pocket Gophers and the Invasion and Restoration of Native Bunchgrass Communities


  • Sean M. Watts

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93106-9610, U.S.A.
      S. M. Watts, email
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S. M. Watts, email


More than 7 million hectares of California native plant communities are now dominated by exotic annual species, a biological invasion that has made native bunchgrass ecosystems in this region one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Many land use and environmental factors have contributed to the conversion of bunchgrass areas to annual grassland, but the role of gopher disturbance remains understudied. Here I report observational evidence that suggests gopher foraging is nonrandomly concentrated in the open spaces between clumps of bunchgrass and as a result may inhibit the recruitment of bunchgrass into these areas. Understanding patterns of direct gopher impact and coincident soil disturbance in bunchgrass versus annual grassland is important for successful restoration of bunchgrass habitats. While the prospect of excluding gophers is daunting, even short-term reductions in gopher populations would help to promote a restored community structure with a mature native bunchgrass and annual forb association.

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