Tropical savanna restoration by direct seeding: Steps forward

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Andre Coutinho

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International commitments set a target for Brazil to restore 12 million hectares of natural habitat of which 5 million hectares are within the Cerrado (savanna) region. To achieve such commitments, we need restoration methods that are cost-effective and practical at a large scale. Since 2012, we have tested and developed direct seeding techniques to decrease costs and improve restoration success on grasslands and savannas. More than 200 hectares have been direct seeded to restore areas in central Brazil. The direct seeding techniques have been applied by an increasing number of private and public companies to promote restoration. We were able to establish more than 70 native grasses, shrubs and trees species; and significantly changed soil cover from exotic to native species. However, many challenges persist, especially the control of African grass species, widely introduced for pasturelands that become aggressive invaders. We tested mechanical control of invasive grasses (IG) through repetitive soil plowing before direct seeding and the introduction of different functional groups. A mixture of native species with perennial grasses and fast-growing shrub and tree species improves restoration success, especially in less fertile soils where IG fitness is reduced. Mechanical control decreases IG but does not eliminate them, and it causes severe soil disturbances. The use of chemical control, even inside legally protected areas, is highly recommended to improve restoration success in tropical grasslands and savannas where shading by thick tree layer would eliminate IG but create inadequate restoration endpoints. Improving native species harvesting and seeding techniques is also essential.

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Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

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Society for Ecological Restoration