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Responses of two woodland geophytes to disturbance caused by soil translocation

Craig, Marja, Buckley, G. Peter
Plant ecology 2013 v.214 no.9 pp. 1091-1103
soil profiles, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, parents, seedlings, Anemone nemorosa, soil depth, topsoil, bulbs, planting, ecological restoration, woodlands, rhizomes, biomass, leaves, England
Topsoil transfer is an important tool in ecological restoration, but as a technique for re-locating woodland habitats displaced by development works it would appear highly damaging to geophytes present in the field layer. The effect of moving soil using different handling techniques was simulated in pot experiments with two common geophytes, Hyacinthoides non-scripta (L.) Chouard ex Rothm. and Anemone nemorosa L., while longer term changes in Hyacinthoides populations were also followed at an active woodland translocation field site in South East England, UK. In the pot experiment, artificially damaging Hyacinthoides bulbs restricted their performance, as did planting at sub-optimal depths and orientations, but Anemone rhizomes were little affected either by damage or displacement. Provided that they were able to produce leaves and thus re-allocate biomass to their perennating organs, recovery of both species was rapid in the following season. In the field, Hyacinthoides bulb densities also eventually recovered to levels reported in semi-natural woodlands in autumn-translocated soil profiles, although bulb biomass was still significantly lower in spring-moved treatments after three growing seasons. The parent bulbs rapidly adjusted their orientation and depth in the soil profile and were enhanced by natural seedling recruitment. The results suggest that, provided careful soil handling protocols are followed, these woodland geophytes have the capacity to recover if soil translocation is restricted to their dormant period. In the longer term, the sudden change from woodland to open conditions may be detrimental and may increase competition from non-woodland species.