We conducted a 5-year study at 10 sites from British Columbia to the Willamette Valley aimed at improving methods for restoring degraded prairies and oak savannas. Our manager-recommended treatment combinations were applied over 4 years and included the following components: spring and fall mowing, grass-specific and broad-spectrum herbicide, and fall burning. All treatment combinations were crossed with native seed addition. As expected, we found there was no ‘silver bullet’; while some treatment combinations led to large improvements in weed control and native diversity and abundance, the optimum combination and degree of success varied across sites. Where non-native grasses are the most pressing problem, we recommend the use of grass-specific herbicides as highly effective with minimal non-target effects on native forbs and some native grasses. Fire is a useful tool for preparing a site for seeding and can be followed closely with a broad spectrum herbicide to control rapidly resprouting weeds. Careful timing of post-fire herbicide application avoids impacting later-sprouting natives. At all sites, we recommend seed addition to enhance native diversity and abundance, as our data show even relatively high quality sites are strongly seed-limited. Repeat mowing is ineffective at reducing herbaceous weed abundance. Additionally, mowing did not increase bare soil, resulting in poor seedling establishment. If fire is not an option, we recommend testing additional treatments to increase bare soil and seeding success. At all sites, we conclude that enhancing natives and controlling invasives are likely to be most successful through repeated applications of treatment combinations.
For more articles from the Spring 2011 issue of Northwest Science please refer to the link below: