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Importance of Seed and Microsite Limitation: Native Wildflower Establishment in Non-native Pasture


A. L. Frances, email


Barriers to establishing native plant communities on former pasture include dominance by a single planted species, hydrologic and edaphic alteration, and native species propagule limitation. Establishment may be dispersal-limited (propagules do not arrive at the site), microsite-limited (areas suitable for seedling emergence and survival do not exist), or both. Successful restoration strategies hinge on identifying and addressing critical limitations. We examined seed and microsite limitation to establishment of a native wildflower (Coreopsis lanceolata ) in a former pasture dominated by Paspalum notatum (bahiagrass). We determined the relative and interactive effects of microsite (irrigation and disturbance) and seed limitation on C. lanceolata establishment. We tested (1) irrigation (none, pre-seeding, and pre- and post-seeding), (2) disturbance (none, sethoxydim, glyphosate, and topsoil removal), and (3) C. lanceolata seeding rate (three seeding densities). Applying glyphosate before seeding increased C. lanceolata establishment compared to other disturbance treatments. Ultimately, C. lanceolata establishment was not affected by irrigation. Coreopsis lanceolata establishment was limited when seeded at 100 live seeds/m2 but not at 600 or 1100 live seeds/m2. Seed and microsite availability interactively affected C. lanceolata establishment, in that microsite limitation was biologically relevant only when a minimum number of seeds were present. In practice, both seed and microsite requirements must be met for successful establishment, and increasing the availability of seeds or microsites does not compensate for limitations of the other. Here, it is the relative importance of seed and microsite limitations that drives plant establishment; these limitations do not represent a simple dichotomy.