Inoculation with a Native Soil Community Advances Succession in a Grassland Restoration


E. L. Middleton, email


Restoration on post-agricultural land may be hindered by the degradation of the soil community, which has been shown to contribute to structuring plant communities and driving succession. Our experiment tested the effect of inoculation with remnant grassland whole soil with or without nurse plants on the survival and growth of uninoculated early and late successional plant species. In 2007 and 2008, we planted uninoculated early, mid, and late successional plant species 0.25–2 m away from a central point of inoculated nurse plants. We found a negative response to inoculation on early successional plants and a positive response to inoculation on mid to late successional plants. This work suggests that the restoration of the soil community is critical to establishing a late successional plant community and that the benefit of inoculated plants can spread to neighbors.