Rough Surface and High-Forb Seed Mix Promote Ecological Restoration of Simulated Well Pads

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Abstract

Because of disturbance and exotic plant invasions, ecological restoration is necessary for maintaining functional big sagebrush ecosystems in western North America. Downy brome control is often necessary in restoring this ecosystem type; however, many brome control measures hinder ecological restoration by limiting the types of plants which can be established. Microtopography manipulation may aid weed control by entrapping undesirable seeds. We undertook a field experiment at four sites in the Piceance Basin of western Colorado, USA to test the effects of microtopography (rough with brush mulch or flat with straw mulch), seed mix (high-forb or balanced), and herbicide (140 g ai ha−1 imazapic ammonium salt or none) on downy brome control and perennial plant establishment following disturbance. Three years post-treatment, downy brome had become established at two of the four sites, one each with high (GVM) and low (MTN) downy brome seed rain. At GVM, the rough/brush treatment augmented the effectiveness of imazapic, reducing downy brome biomass six-fold. At MTN, the rough/brush surface reduced downy brome biomass 10-fold in the absence of imazapic. Across all four sites, forb and shrub biomass were higher with the high-forb mix, and there was no effect of seed mix on downy brome or annual forb biomass. Restoring a full complement of plant functional groups in big sagebrush ecosystems may be aided by increasing forbs in seed mixes, and manipulating soil microtopography.

Nomenclature:

imazapic ammonium salt; big sagebrush, Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ARTR2; downy brome, Bromus tectorum L. BROTE.

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