Soil microbes and priority effects limit conservative forb establishment in restored temperate woodlands

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J. Leighton Reid, Scott Mangan, Brad Delfeld, Noah Dell, Quinn Long, Mahala Lorenzo, Claudia Stein, Matthew Albrecht

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What limits conservative forb establishment in restored, temperate woodlands? The primary barrier is typically assumed to be dispersal limitation in fragmented landscapes. One important post-dispersal barrier could be a lack of critical soil microbes, such as mutualistic mycorrhizal fungi. A second barrier could be increased competition from earlier colonists (i.e., inhibitory priority effects).We tested these hypotheses for seven forbs in three restored woodlands in eastern Missouri. To test the effects of soil microbes on early seedling establishment, we monitored seedling growth in a greenhouse for five weeks. Seeds were grown in sterile medium inoculated with a small amount of soil from either a remnant woodland or a restored woodland (n = 1,120 seedlings). Two out of seven species grew 1.6-6.5× (x̄ = 3.7×, s.e. = 0.9×) larger over five weeks when inoculated with remnant soil compared to restored woodland soil. To test the effects of soil microbes and competing vegetation on seedling survival in the field, we introduced potted seedlings in three restored woodlands (n = 832 seedlings). After one year, survival was 2-16% greater for five forb species planted with competing vegetation removed via glyphosate (x̄ = 9%, s.e. = 5%). Two other species had equivalent survival with and without competing vegetation removed. One-year survival was similar for forbs inoculated with remnant soil versus soil from restored woodlands. Preliminary results suggest that microbes associated with remnant woodland soil are most important during early establishment and that removing competing vegetation improves the initial survival of introduced forb seedlings.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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