Movement of Weed Seeds in Reclamation Areas


  • Danielle B. Johnston

    Corresponding author
    1. Colorado Division of Wildlife, Grand Junction, CO, U.S.A.
    2. Natural Resource Ecology Lab, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, U.S.A.
    Search for more papers by this author

Danielle Johnston, email:


The presence or absence of obstructions can affect seed dispersal. Reclamation activities often cause changes in the type and amount of such obstructions. The consequences of removing obstructions on the dispersal of undesirable species are unknown. In western North America, reclamation may often proceed in areas surrounded by the invasive Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass). The importance of preventing cheatgrass seed dispersal from surrounding landscapes is an unknown factor in reducing cheatgrass competition in these areas. I quantified cheatgrass seed dispersal in the early stages of reclamation, when soils were bare. Four groups of 100 sterilized, fluorescently marked cheatgrass seeds were released in each of three areas in NW Colorado, USA. Seeds were located at night using blacklights four times over 14 days, and the distance between each seed and the point of release was measured. Across sites, dispersal distance averaged 2.4 m, 5% of seeds traveled further than 7.6 m, and maximum recorded distance was 20.8 m. Maximum distances reported in this study are 50-fold higher than previously reported for intact sagebrush ecosystems. I suggest that the difference is due to a lack of impediments to secondary dispersal on bare soil. When reclamation areas are surrounded by weeds such as cheatgrass, seeds dispersing from the perimeter may influence restoration outcome.