Padilla, F.M. and F.I. Pugnaire
Traditional ecological models have focused mainly on competition between plants, but recent research has shown that some plants benefit from closely associated neighbors, a phenomenon known as facilitation. There is increasing experimental evidence suggesting that facilitation has a place in mainstream ecological theory, but it also has a practical side when applied to the restoration of degraded environments, particularly drylands, alpine, or other limiting habitats. Where restoration fails because of harsh environmental conditions or intense herbivory, species that minimize these effects could be used to improve performance in nearby target species. Although there are few examples of the application of this “nursing” procedure worldwide, experimental data are promising, and show enhanced plant survival and growth in areas close to nurse plants. We discuss the potential for including nurse plants in restoration management procedures to improve the success rate of such projects.
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment