Recovery of Foredune and Blowout Habitats in a Freshwater Dune Following Removal of Invasive Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra)

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Abstract

Invasive species removal is an important first step toward restoring invaded ecosystems; however, restoration following removal may be hindered by (1) unintended consequences of management, such as habitat destabilization, and/or (2) legacy effects of the invader, such as persistent alterations of soil structure or plant community composition. During 1956–1972, approximately 26,000 individuals of the non-native pine, Pinus nigra, were planted into multiple freshwater sand dune habitats as a stabilization measure on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in Allegan County, MI, U.S.A. From 2004 to 2010, we evaluated the recovery of foredune and blowout habitats following P. nigra removal in 2003–2005. We compared sand movement and plant community structure, composition, and richness between removal and control sites over the 6 years following pine removal. In addition, we evaluated the impact of litter removal on recolonization of native graminoids in foredunes. Sand movement patterns never differed between removal and control sites in foredunes; however, accumulation was more common in removal sites in blowouts 1 and 6 years following pine removal. Vegetation cover in removal sites became indistinguishable from control sites in both foredunes and blowouts, but species richness for both forb and woody species was higher in removal sites in blowouts. Removal sites in both foredunes and blowouts had higher cover by forbs and lower cover by graminoids. Pine litter did not inhibit recolonization of foredunes by native graminoids. These results suggest that high disturbance habitats, such as sand dunes, have the potential to recover from invasion if the mechanism of disturbance is restored and pioneer species are present to recolonize the system.

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