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Alex Caruana , Eman Calleja
The restoration of semi-arid zones is increasingly challenging in the face of climate change. The requirement of irrigation to aid the establishment of vegetation exacerbates costs and labour, making the restoration of large areas particularly inhibitive. In this study we attempt to develop a cheap and low intensity seeding strategy to restore a semi-arid habitat on a large scale. We chose to restore a European priority habitat: Tetraclinis articulata forests. In the experiment we sow 800 seed caches with 6 different species without any irrigation, over an area of 10,269 m2 in two different sites, under varying conditions of seed density, soil depth, presence/absence of nurse plants and mycorrhizae. The seeds were pretreated for dormancy and were planted in two different timeframes, autumn and winter. We monitored the seedlings over a two-year period to determine the germination and seedling survive rate following summer and their growth rate over time. In all 278 seedlings belonging to two species germinated: Tetraclinis articulata and Ceratonia siliqua. The seeding density and seeding time each affected the germination rate in these species. Moreover 10-20% of the seedlings survived the first year without any irrigation. We believe that by manipulating the seed density and time of seeding, the survival rate could be brought up further, making it feasible to establish a viable self-sustaining habitat on a large scale. It is thus thought that direct seeding can be an important method to maximize restoration effect with minimal cost and effort over large and poorly accessible terrains.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program