Carbon Storage in Privet-Invaded Forests of Central Texas: Another Reason to Restore Invaded Forests?

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Logan Sigel, Natalie Turner, and Amy Concilio

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Invasive trees have come to dominate many urban forests, causing losses to ecosystem services and biodiversity. Restoration of invaded sites is often warranted, but costs cannot always be easily justified when considering multiple management goals within urban parks departments. With recent climate plans and policies, like the 2020 Austin Climate Equity Plan, cities are increasingly looking at ways to mitigate excess CO2 emissions by increasing sequestration through natural systems. Ecological theory predicts that more diverse native forests should sequester more carbon than species-depauperate invasive forest patches, so there may be emerging opportunities for climate policies directed toward restoration. However, data are lacking about how much carbon invasive trees store compared to the native species they displace. In this study, our objectives were to quantify the carbon storage potential of trees and soils in forest patches in and around Austin, TX, that were invaded by privet species (Ligustrum spp.) compared to native Ashe juniper-live oak forests. We measured total carbon in surface (0-10cm) and deeper (25-35cm) soil layers, soil organic matter (SOM) in these same layers (using the loss on ignition method), and estimated carbon stored in trees and shrubs by measuring their diameters (DBH) at 13 sites covering a range of soil types. At the completion of the study, we will have measured carbon at 10 sites for each forest type. Our preliminary results (from 9 native, 4 invasive sites) suggest that native Ashe juniper forests may have a higher carbon storage potential compared to invasive privet forests. Basal area was 39% higher in native forest patches than privet sites, suggesting more carbon storage in biomass. Although SOM was not significantly different between the two forest types, in privet-invaded sites, privet cover (which ranged from 45-99%) was strongly negatively related to SOM (R2 = 0.82). Our results can be used to inform local land management policy seeking to maximize carbon storage potential in the region, and should be of broad interest to restoration ecologists and invasion biologists working in other urban environments.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program