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Keywords:

  • Dry meadow;
  • Great Basin;
  • Restoration;
  • Seedling emergence;
  • Seedling survival;
  • Soil temperature;
  • Soil water;
  • Thresholds
  • Hickman(1993);Cronquistetal. Vol. 5 (1994)

Abstract. We evaluated the potential for restoring riparian grass and sedge meadows currently dominated by Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata with an experiment in which we burned sites with low, intermediate, and high water tables, i.e., dry, intermediate, and wet sites. To define the alternative states and thresholds for these ecosystems, we examined burning and water table effects on both abiotic variables and establishment of grasses adapted to relatively high (Poa se-cunda ssp. juncifolia), intermediate (Leymus triticoides), or low (L. cinereus) water tables. Wet sites had lower soil temperatures and higher soil water contents than dry sites. Burning increased soil temperatures on all sites. Undershrub microsites on control plots had the lowest temperatures, while former undershrub microsites on burn plots had the highest temperatures. Surface soil water was low on burn plots early in the growing season due to desiccation, but higher at deeper depths after active plant growth began. Emergence was generally greater on wet sites, but survival was microsite- and species-specific. Undershrub microsites on control plots facilitated emergence and first-year survival, but seedlings that survived initially harsh conditions on burn plots had similar numbers alive at the end. In general, favorable environments and establishment of species adapted to mesic conditions indicate that wet sites represent an alternative state of the naturally occurring dry meadow ecosystem type, and can be restored to grass and sedge meadows. Harsh environments and lack of establishment of species adapted to mesic conditions indicate that dry sites have crossed a threshold and may represent a new ecosystem type. Understory vegetation and seed banks on dry sites have been depleted, and restoration will require burning and reseeding with species adapted to more xeric conditions.