A “good” restoration year relies on more than just rainfall: Inter-annual variation affects initial dynamics of sown prairies

Ecological restoration can be prone to unpredictable outcomes, but what leads to this variation? For plant communities, conditions during the first year of restoration may contribute to variation among efforts by influencing germination and seedling survival; this, in turn, may impact the community that develops. We are testing this hypothesis, with a focus on the amount of precipitation received by newly sown prairie plantings, with an experiment that manipulates water for the first nine weeks in spring-sown tallgrass prairie plots, across multiple establishment years. We found large differences among the first two years of this study—e.g. 16.9% of sown species germinated in 2014, versus 45.5% in 2015—even in plots for which precipitation was held constant between the two years. Our results show that inter-annual variation heavily influences initial dynamics of sown prairies, yet precipitation surprisingly may not be the driving force behind this variation.

Subject Matter Level: 
Friday, January 15, 2016 - 10:45am to 11:00am
Anna Groves
Michigan State University
Anna is a community ecologist, studying prairie restoration ecology and plant community assembly in Lars Brudvig's lab at Michigan State University. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the Plant Biology department and the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior program. Before beginning graduate school at MSU, Anna earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Illinois Wesleyan University and worked four field seasons in Illinois and Nevada. She has interned with the McHenry County Conservation District (IL) and the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INHS/IL DNR/AES), as well as with the Great Basin Bird Observatory in Nevada. Today, she is interested in better understanding community assembly in order to predict and improve restoration outcomes. With her experimental prairies at the Kellogg Biological Station’s Lux Arbor Reserve (Prairieville, MI), she hopes to shed light on how priority effects, management decisions, and inter-annual variation interplay to influence restored plant communities.
Lars Brudvig
Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University
Presentation File: