Restoring prairies: A synthesis of studies on vegetation and invasive species in support of effective management (Year two)

Our overall objective for this project is to synthesize the scientific information now available relevant to the prairie restoration efforts of the West Eugene Wetlands project and, where there is sufficient support, develop concrete and defensible management recommendations.

Successful ecosystem restoration requires establishing and maintaining native plants. In turn, plant establishment hinges on having suitable environmental conditions, using species with adequate germination rates, and reducing competitive pressure from nonnative plants. In year one of this project, we synthesized the wealth of data in the West Eugene Wetlands establishment data set on plant abundance after sowing native species during wetland restoration (Wilson 2004). In year two, we will build and expand on these results in several important ways:
• We are generalizing these results through the investigation of plant traits that consistently correspond to the patterns of establishment and vigor.
• We are systematically compiling the results from year one and year two of this project into a public database. We are adding to this database findings from similar ecosystems, both in the Willamette Valley and elsewhere.
• We are considering further the role of microsite variability on seedling establishment patterns.
• We are synthesizing these results into scientific conclusions.
• We are integrating these results, where there is sufficient support, into concrete and defensible management recommendations.

Our goal is to develop an ability to predict key aspects of prairie restoration performance, such as establishment rates, based on knowing species traits, site conditions, and maintenance. These predictions can then be converted into management recommendations, such as which species to sow and which site preparation and maintenance regimes should be followed to maximize native plant abundance and minimize non-native plant abundance at a given site.

The two components of our project –plant traits and the database– are crucial to this goal.
• Without the generalization that traits allow, understanding of wetland restoration increases slowly and expensively, one case study at a time.
• The organization of the database will increase the power and efficiency of revealing the relationships between plant traits and plant performance. Perhaps even more important is the role of the database as a first step in developing a Web-based expert system for managers wishing to plan wetland restorations.