Response of Vegetation and Ecosystem Services to Urban Prairie Restoration Treatments in Austin, TX

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Amy L. Concilio, Stella Cunningham, Vinh Tran, Joscelyn Moncayo, Andrew Venzon, and Diane Sherrill

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Urbanization and sprawl have led to habitat fragmentation and degradation, and subsequent invasion by nonnative species and losses in biodiversity. Restoration of urban greenspaces may ameliorate these impacts, while providing additional benefits for residents. We analyzed response of vegetation and soils to restoration treatments in a 40-acre prairie in Austin, TX. In 2011, herbicide was used to remove invasive Bermuda grass, KR bluestem, and Johnson grass, which dominated the site. The land was tilled and planted with a seed mix of 75 native grasses and forbs in 2012, and prescribed fires occurred in 2013, 2017, and 2019. In 2010, pre-restoration vegetation surveys were conducted along 9 transects, 20m in length. Post-restoration surveys have been conducted annually since 2012 in the same locations. In 2018 and 2019, we measured vegetation composition, productivity (aboveground biomass), soil moisture (gravimetric), and soil organic matter (loss on ignition) in the restored field and a nearby reference site. Pre-treatment, invasive grasses made up 91% ( 5.8, SD) of the plant cover, but they were reduced to 4-18% cover in post-treatment years. Most seeded species successfully established, along with an additional 50 native species, greatly increasing species richness at the site (122 post; 25 pre). The restored meadow had 56% more pollinator friendly plants than the reference site, but showed no difference in productivity, soil moisture, or organic matter. Overall, the restoration was successful in increasing plant diversity and floral resources, but did not affect soils. However, we may see increases in soil fertility and other ecosystem services over time.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program