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Keywords:

  • live stakes;
  • revegetation;
  • riparian restoration;
  • willow habitat

Abstract

A common approach to re-establishing cottonwood–willow habitat along regulated rivers is through installing dormant, rootless cuttings, yet there is little published information exploring floodplain characteristics that optimize growth of southwestern riparian willows planted in this manner. The goal of this project was to evaluate relationships between growth attributes of Salix exigua and soil texture and soil water availability. Monitoring plots were established in five willow swales planted with dormant S. exigua cuttings along the banks of the Middle Rio Grande in central New Mexico. Data analysis revealed significantly higher aerial cover, height, and stem density for S. exigua plants installed in plots with intermediate levels (15–25%) of fine textured soils distributed through the soil profile. Similar relationships were found in relation to soil water availability. Regression analysis of percent fines and available water at different depth increments provided limited explanation of variability in willow growth attributes at different plots. Findings indicate that S. exigua plants established from cuttings can achieve heights and aerial cover values similar to naturally established willow bars if the floodplain soil profile contains intermediate levels of fine textured soils and the maximum depth to groundwater is within 1.5 m of the ground surface. Where sites are dominated by coarse sand, S. exigua growth may be improved if maximum depth to groundwater is within 1 m of the ground surface.